A pick-up truck for sale in a lot near Irvington and 1st Ave., Friday, March 29, 2019, Tucson, Ariz.

In Tucson, there are above-board deals happening every day when it comes to pre-owned vehicles, but in the midst of it all, scammers are looking for their prey.

It’s called curbstoning, where a private citizen or a dealer posing as a private seller tries to sell a car to avoid regulations or unload a vehicle with underlying damage.

The private deals would usually occur at the curb, hence the curbstoning name, but Google “used cars in Tucson” and you’ll find a smorgasbord of vehicles for sale. Check the dealings on sites like eBay and it goes even deeper.

While you may have your eyes set on a new-to-you vehicle, government agencies in charge of regulating such sales say you should be aware of those scams.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says identity theft involving driver licenses and ID cards is something it is trying to prevent. Those stolen identities could be used in vehicle deals where a buyer can’t get the vehicle title transferred to their name. And when attempting to report the seller, that person has disappeared.

The department continues its use of facial-recognition technology to detect when an individual attempts to obtain a fraudulent identity. About 40 detectives using the technology have solved more than 150 cases in the past few years, ADOT says.

A portion of ADOT’s investigations involves making sure unlicensed dealers don’t sell more vehicles than allowed by state law in a year. The vehicle limit is currently at six.

In 2016, an undercover detective buying a vehicle led to a 35-year-old man being cited for selling 124 in an 11-month period without a dealer’s license. He faced $118,000 worth of fines for selling the vehicles.

Agencies have also provided tips to prevent you from being a victim. It could save you from buying a lemon as well as any future headaches.

Research is good; ask questions, get it in writing

Do you know who you are buying from? Make sure that contact information is not linked to the selling of multiple cars at the same time, or you may have yourself a curbstoner. When speaking with one, they might ask which car you’re inquiring about. It could be a sign to look elsewhere.

While completing your research, it’s best to get the answers to all of your important questions.

If you go forward, get the Vehicle Identification Number and run a report. But know that the report can also be viewed by the seller, who could try to cover up any damages.

You can also request the proof before inspecting the vehicle, such as how long the vehicle has been owned, the reason for selling and any records of maintenance and title information.

Unlike licensed dealers, private sales are not covered by “implied warranties,” which would cover you if the vehicle didn’t work as intended. If there’s a written contract, then it must be lived up to. Get all promises in writing.

You can even ask to have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic before finalizing the deal.

Is it too good to be true?

If you finalized the deal and believe you’ve been scammed, ADOT’s Office of Inspector General is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will take calls regarding fraudulent activity concerning driver licenses, vehicle titles and registrations. Call 602-277-5684 if you live in the Phoenix area and 877-712-2370 for those outside that area.

Down the Road

Trenching work to impact traffic in Sabino Canyon: Beginning April 1, Tucson Electric Power crews will conduct trench work to provide power for the electric shuttles expected later this year in Sabino Canyon.

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Crews will work Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Forest Road 805, from Sabino Canyon Road to the overflow parking lot.

The work should last two weeks. Visitors should plan for delays.

Speedway repaving has begun: Road crews have started a two-month repaving project along Speedway from Greasewood to Painted Hills roads.

Crews will work Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Business and residential access will be maintained throughout the project, but motorists should expect delays.

Motorists should also use caution and watch for personnel in the work area.

I-10 ramps at Pinal Air Park Road to open, close over three days: Construction crews will open and close the ramps of Interstate 10 and Pinal Air Park Road beginning Monday.

The onramp of Pinal Air Park to eastbound I-10 will be closed April 2 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for guardrail work. Motorists should use I-10 westbound to the Red Rock interchange and use the eastbound onramp.

The off-ramp from eastbound I-10 to Pinal Air Park will close from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 3. Motorists should exit at Marana Road and take I-10 westbound back to Pinal Air Park Road.

Overnight lane restrictions will continue from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Monday to Friday for bridge deck work.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.