Yes, you want the car you're buying washed, but not the title

Con artists who make their livings on fraudulent enterprises that scam an unwitting public immediately qualify for a host of descriptive terms, of course.

Like dishonest. Immoral. Reprehensible.

And, oh yes, smart and enterprising.

If there's a buck to be found, it seems like fraudsters preying upon consumers have claimed dibs on it, and often through sophisticated and thoroughly disingenuous schemes.

Take so-called title washing, for example. Many consumers have likely never heard the term before.

If it subsequently comes up in regard to a used vehicle they purchased, though, they will likely never forget the words.

Title washing is a sleight-of-hand motor vehicle fraud scheme pursuant to which criminals often make double the amount that a car is worth in a sale to a defrauded consumer. One Carfax principal calls it "a paper scam that has physical consequences."

What con artists do is this. First, they look for a previously damaged car -- think flooded, wrecked, rebuilt -- and purchase it for fair value. That means at a significant discount, of course.

And then they get to work on the title reflecting the vehicle's prior damage. They might simply erase derogatory information. Alternatively, they might use a stolen blank title to forge a newly minted and clean document. Further still, they might take the car and altered title to another state, where unsuspecting DMV authorities register the vehicle as clean.

And then, of course, they sell it for a premium and wave goodbye to a duped consumer who is unknowingly driving away with a vehicle that has been materially misrepresented.

Moreover, that car or passenger truck might also be flatly dangerous to a motorist and his or her passengers.

Carfax advises every potential car buyer to close examine a vehicle's title and to see whether the owner's name on that document matches that of the person seeking to sell it.

If fraud is suspected in any aspect relating to a vehicle sale, a consumer might reasonably want to enlist the assistance of a proven consumer protection attorney.

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