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  1. #1

    Default Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered VIN on Title Does Not Match VIN on Vehicle Chassis

    My question involves vehicle registration or title in the state of: CA. I recently purchased what I thought would be a 1992 Geo Metro from a person on Craigslist. We did not meet at his house which I didn't think much of at first, but now I wish we did. When I went to insure the vehicle, the insurance company told me that the VIN number I had entered (from the title I got) was for a 1992 Geo Storm which is why I did not catch the difference on the title since the model was not printed on the title, only the make. I then took the vehicle to the DMV who were of absolutely no help to me (they almost had me register the Storm which I don't have possession of despite my explanation of the story). They tried to get me to contact the guy who sold it to me so I could get him to fill out paperwork for a duplicate title. I thought that was bogus since the guy who sold it to me has no authority to get a duplicate title for something he didn't own in the first place. I tried getting in touch with the seller and his response was "I had no problem registering it." Duh. The DMV doesn't check VINs unless you ask them to. He refused to give me my money back and I haven't been able to contact him since. I did inform him I would pursue legal action if he did not agree to undo the purchase. I also stopped by the police who weren't extremely helpful either. What should I do from this point? I also have reason to suspect the guy was using a fake DL since google search turned up someone with his name (excepting his middle name) who lived in the exact area he stated he did, but who was 37, married, and had 2 kids. The guy who sold it to me had to be in his mid 20s and there is unlikely he was married and had to 2 children. His name is not a common name, so what are the chances that someone with his name who has a father with the middle name he gave me exists living at an address within a couple blocks of each other? It is a mess. I also have contact info. for the registered owner of the vehicle who is a 78 year old man..... The vehicle's VIN has had a non operation permit on it since 2008.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    I'm surprised the police refused to assist here. Unless this was all a mistake, there are definitely crimes involved and until it is discovered to be a mistake, the police should be looking at this as if there was a crime committed.

    I did not read whether the VIN on the vehicle matched the VIN on the title. Does it? If not, again, we have what looks like a crime and until shown to be otherwise, should be treated as a crime.

    I would ask the police to run the VIN on the actual car to determine if it is stolen. If it shows to be stolen, the police don't really have any choice but to step in on this situation. Since you have contact info on the registered owner, you might try contacting him to see if there is some explanation to the situation.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    Quote Quoting jk
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    I'm surprised the police refused to assist here. Unless this was all a mistake, there are definitely crimes involved and until it is discovered to be a mistake, the police should be looking at this as if there was a crime committed.

    I did not read whether the VIN on the vehicle matched the VIN on the title. Does it? If not, again, we have what looks like a crime and until shown to be otherwise, should be treated as a crime.

    I would ask the police to run the VIN on the actual car to determine if it is stolen. If it shows to be stolen, the police don't really have any choice but to step in on this situation. Since you have contact info on the registered owner, you might try contacting him to see if there is some explanation to the situation.
    I apologize for forgetting to include the fact that the police did try and verify the VIN. Also, the Geo Metro I bought was not reported stolen. There is something fishy going on here and I'm not sure what it is, but I am contemplating getting in touch with the real registered owner of the Metro and seeing what is up. If it is his car and he didn't report it stolen, he will probably be glad to have it back. I will still have to pursue legal action against the guy who sold it to me with loads of proof that I did actually pick up a Metro from him and not a Storm (as the VIN on the title shows). The VIN on the title is for a Geo Storm when I bought a Geo Metro Xfi from this guy. I have witnesses, a bill of sale, and should I return this car to its registered owner then I will also get him to sign a document stating that I returned it to him. Is this the right course of action? Am I wasting my time in taking the guy who sold it to me to court?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    Am I wasting my time in taking the guy who sold it to me to court?
    that is something that cannot be answered from this side of the screen. I have no idea if the guy can be found and if, even after obtaining a judgment against him, if it goes that far, would you be able to collect on that.

    If it was me, I would continue to try to find the seller as well as contacting the registered owner. Who knows what information you might find once you contact the registered owner.

    I would wonder if what you have is not an amalgamation of two cars used to build a single car after each was considered a salvage vehicle. I am not overly familiar with GEO's but often times there is enough similarity in related cars that they could be used for such a process.

    Have you checked on either, both VIN's via Carfax or similar?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    Quote Quoting jk
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    that is something that cannot be answered from this side of the screen. I have no idea if the guy can be found and if, even after obtaining a judgment against him, if it goes that far, would you be able to collect on that.

    If it was me, I would continue to try to find the seller as well as contacting the registered owner. Who knows what information you might find once you contact the registered owner.

    I would wonder if what you have is not an amalgamation of two cars used to build a single car after each was considered a salvage vehicle. I am not overly familiar with GEO's but often times there is enough similarity in related cars that they could be used for such a process.

    Have you checked on either, both VIN's via Carfax or similar?
    Yes I have a vehicle history report on both VINs. Neither vehicle has anything too serious on its record. The Metro originated in Pennsylvania, then it was registered in Texas, then in San Diego, and finally in Los Angeles. The Storm originated in San Diego and made its way to Los Angeles. They were never both registered in San Diego at the same time, though it appears one was in Temecula while the other was in San Diego. It would appear that the Geo Metro became the Geo Storm (plate and VIN from Geo Storm was reassigned to the Metro) in 2008 at about the same time that the Geo Metro's VIN acquired a permit for non-operation. It would not appear that parts from two vehicles were combined to make one. It is possible the the registered owner is an illegal immigrant or dead. The only thing I am hesitant about with contacting the registered owner is that he could report it stolen just to be a jerk once he knows someone has his vehicle. I don't know. What I do know is that it is a mess, and I might be out $1200.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    well, given what you have stated so far, I would proceed with the assumption you are out the money. It it works out better, then great.

    Maybe I missed something but how can a VIN be reassigned? It is given to a specific vehicle and forever remains the identifying number for that vehicle. Other than having a vehicle constructed from parts of both vehicles, I cannot see any way to change a VIN short of dealing with stolen vehicles.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    Quote Quoting jk
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    well, given what you have stated so far, I would proceed with the assumption you are out the money. It it works out better, then great.

    Maybe I missed something but how can a VIN be reassigned? It is given to a specific vehicle and forever remains the identifying number for that vehicle. Other than having a vehicle constructed from parts of both vehicles, I cannot see any way to change a VIN short of dealing with stolen vehicles.
    The Geo Metro somehow acquired the plates for the Geo Storm in 2008 based off what I read on the vehicle history. I am also assuming that the title for the Storm began being used to register the Metro during that time as well. I should not have said reassigned, because that is impossible as far as I know. What I mean is that someone must have went to register the Geo Metro at the DMV with the title for the Storm during that time. The DMV would not catch this since they don't physically check if the VIN on the title matches the VIN on the vehicle. I cannot say for certain exactly when the Metro began being registered with the Storm's title by mistake, but I just had a hunch that it was in 2008. The person who sold the vehicle to me had apparently only acquired the Geo Storm's title 2 weeks prior to selling the Metro to me with that title. I think he figured out that he was frauded, and rather than sort it out he turned around and resold it to me.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    well, if the VIN's do not match, the police really should be involved. You do not have legal title to the car in your possession and the guy that sold it to you did not have the legal right to sell it to you. I am simply amazed the police have brushed this off so easily.

    Then, you do have legal title to a car that is not in your possession.

    what a mess.

    find the guy that sold it to you and demand your money back. If needed, sue him and hope you can collect on the judgment.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Bought a Vehicle; Later Discovered Vin on Title Does Not Match Vin on Vehicle Cha

    The VIN cannot be reassigned. One of two things happened: (1) a horrible clerical error when/if the vehicle was salvaged, sold at auction, or parts were swapped. Or, (2) something criminal and nefarious went on.

    Have you asked the CHP to try and verify the VIN in alternate places in the car to see if they match? While it might be no problem to replace the VIN plate on the dash, or even on the door or door frame, there may be one under the hood on the firewall and the CHP might be able to match the Engine Number to the VIN to determine whether we have a paperwork SNAFU or something else.

    I'll tell you right now that the local police probably would not know what to do with such a thing other than to tell you to talk to the DMV or maybe the CHP. Since the matter appears to be multi-jurisdictional and would require access to databases that most agencies here do not possess, they likely would not act on any report ... though, you might want to report it simply to keep your own tail out of trouble should it pop up as stolen some day down the road.

    In most areas the CHP work chop-shop details as parts of regional task forces or as part of their own investigations' unit, so you might want to seek the help of the CHP to see what assistance they can provide.
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

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