Tarrant County

Investigators See ‘Serious Uptick' in Stolen Vehicles Being Sold to Unsuspecting Buyers

The sales are typically generated online, and investigators believe the Hispanic population is being targeted

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Tarrant County officials are reporting a "serious uptick" in stolen vehicles being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said many of the vehicles impacted are General Motors cars.

“Specifically, the GMC pickup and the Silverado pickup. I believe, the GMC is a Sierra pickup,” Waybourn said. “Unfortunately, our victims are showing up at the tax office and discovering that the car is stolen. What they’re seeing is that the VIN number has been changed. The paperwork is fictitious, but the seller is showing up with keys, titles, bill of sale. It all looks very, very legitimate.”

According to Waybourn, many of the sales are generated online. Buyers will see a car for sale, then meet sellers at locations that are not specifically tied to residential or business addresses. The buyer will not realize the car is stolen until they try to transfer the title at a local tax office or DMV and by then, the seller will have already disconnected the phone number used during the sale.

“We don’t want one more person to lose their life savings over thinking they’re getting a great deal,” Waybourn said.

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Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn.

Jorge Zuniga was caught in the same situation four months ago. Zuniga spotted a 2020 BMW for sale online for $23,000. He drove to Dallas to meet with the seller and later purchased it. When he tried to transfer the title over a few days later, he was told the car was stolen.

“I felt like I had cold water dropped on me,” Zuniga told Telemundo 39.

Zuniga added, he is now less trusting of online ads and will do more research before committing to purchases.

Investigators recommend buyers use a reputable car dealership, if possible. David Laugs, general manager at ADL Auto in Fort Worth, said there are processes in place to ensure every step is legitimate.

“For a Texas dealership, if we have a vehicle but we don’t have a title … we legally cannot sell it. We need to wait until the title is over here,” Laugs said.

He recommended buyers who choose to purchase from individual sellers ensure the seller's name matches the title and ask for a copy of their license.

“Go directly into the DMV and make sure the title is in that person’s name,” he said. “You can use common sense as much as you want. But if someone wants to do you wrong, they will be able to. There’s no question about it.”

Waybourn said if buyers choose to purchase a car from somewhere besides a dealership they should agree to meet at safe zones such as a police department.

“Vehicles that are being reported stolen, it’s still a long link between that and the bad guy. But we’re going to absolutely collaborate with other agencies. I feel very confident that we will get the bad guys,” he said.

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