'Curbstoning' law toughened, but plenty of sellers

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- You see them on streets and parking lots: "For Sale" signs in the windows and a potential deal for you.

There's nothing wrong with normal “Joes” selling their used cars on a site such as Craigslist, but a lot of people are making a living doing it.   The Arizona Independent Auto Dealer Association estimates it is a $750 million a year business in Arizona.

“You think those are regular "Joe Blows" parking their cars,” said AIADA Executive Director, Dave Warkentin.  “No, they are probably curbed cars.”

These are cars being sold by an unlicensed dealer. You don't know where they came from and Warkentin estimates a quarter of those on Craigslist are curbed.

That's how Sharon Masta found her 2004 Nissan Xterra.  We didn't know it when we met her in May, but she was a victim of what's called “curbstoning.”

“For all we know it could have 300,000 miles on it,” Masta said.

The ad on Craigslist said a clean title, but when she looked at the real title, it said the odometer reading couldn’t be confirmed.  And her mechanic found lots of rust and other issues.

“His name is nowhere on there,” Masta said referring to the title.

By the time she figured it out, the seller, Kevin Kendall, had her $7,400 and he wasn't taking back the car, leaving Masta with a mechanical problem she can't sell.

“The guys like this don't care about the consumer,” said Warkentin.

“You have other cars for sale or is this it?” Fields Moseley asks a car seller.

Using hidden cameras, we confronted several suspected “curbers" who listed cars for sale on Craigslist. While all may not be breaking the law, they certainly exhibited the behavior of curbing.

“So is it your son's name on the title?” Moseley asked.  “Or your name?”

“No,” the seller said. “I bought it from dealer.”

This man told me he bought this Ford Expedition from a dealer and it had an open title, but when he knew he was busted, he changed the story.

“You bought this from another dealer?” Moseley asked.

“Auction,” he admitted.

He had five ads on Craigslist since the beginning of October.

“What was wrong with it?” Moseley asked another seller. “Get hit from behind? Front?”

The man selling a Hyundai Sonata advertised a clean title but admitted it was restored because the car has front-end damage.

And then we confronted him about the other seven ads on Craigslist. Unless you have a dealer’s license, you cannot sell more than six cars in a year under Arizona law.

“I'm looking at cars.” Moseley said as the confrontation escalated.  “And I'm looking at these cars you've listed on Craigslist and you're not allowed to do that.”

“What's your point?” he kept saying.

“My point is, did you know it was against the law?” Moseley asked.

“What's your point?”

“Did you know it’s against the law?”

He said something about the car maybe belonging to someone else and drove away.

“None of these are titled in the curber’s name,” Warkentin said.  “They are in someone else’s name.”

Warkentin said many of them come from auction.  And the only way to know is to do your research. Maybe that's paying for a CARFAX. Having the car inspected. And remember, if it's a great deal, there is likely a problem.

Sharon Masta did her research after the fact, and she was stuck with an expensive lesson.

To find these sellers, we simply took phone numbers from ads with cars around $5,000. You can search the number on Craigslist to see if there are multiple ads. But beware, many of these sellers mask their numbers or spell them out. That is to prevent a search from turning up all their listings.

The penalties for curbing cars are now more severe after a change in the law. The fines can reach as much as $3,000 for each listing over the limit. The Arizona Office of Inspector General investigates these cases.