3 On Your Side

How to avoid getting ripped off buying a used car

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Serinah Sharif (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Serinah Sharif (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

When Serinah Sharif wants to get somewhere, she either walks or takes the bus. And, in many cases, she depends on friends to get her places.

"Before I even leave work, I have to make sure I can get home. And it's just a real mess," Sharif told 3 On Your Side.

So, she got on a site called OfferUp and that's where she found a car for sale by a private owner. It was a 2000 Mercedes and it was being sold for $2,200.

Sharif sent the seller a text and the two women agreed to meet at a grocery store parking lot just off of 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home. Here, Serinah says the woman claimed she was desperate to sell the car because she needed to pay for a recent funeral.

In fact, Sharif says not only did the seller complain about not having enough money for the funeral, she also didn’t have enough money to pay her cell phone bill or even buy groceries.

Sharif wound up purchasing the Mercedes for $2,200. However, Sharif says she felt sorry for the woman. So, she paid the seller’s phone bill electronically right there in the parking lot and then took her into the grocery store and bought the stranger $100 worth of food.

"Like, I bought them groceries, I paid their phone bill. That's how I was raised. I was raised to just give to people."

So, imagine Sharif’s shock when she recently parked her newly-purchased car at Tempe Market Place, ran into Target for an errand and returned to the parking lot to find her Mercedes had been repossessed.

"I was like, why would they repossess my car? I own it."

Turns out that nice woman on the title, the same nice woman Sharif bought groceries for and paid her cell phone bill, had gone to a title loan company and used the Mercedes as collateral to take out a $1,500 loan before selling it to Sharif.

To get the car back, Sharif is the one who has to pay off that loan or the title loan company will keep her Mercedes.

"That's my car. I paid for it in full, but because people put a lien on it, it's technically their car,” a frustrated Sharif said.

3 On Your Side got involved and according to the title, the seller reportedly lives at a north Phoenix apartment complex.

So, we went there, but we were unable to locate the woman.

In the meantime, Glendale police tells us they investigating the case.

As for Sharif, not only was she swindled out of $2,200, but she's now back to riding the bus.

"It's just a real inconvenience. And it's a real waste of money. I spent thousands of dollars and for what?"

If you’re buying a car through a private transaction like Sharif, this is what 3 On Your Side recommends to keep from getting scammed.

Go to www.servicearizona.com, which is an Arizona Motor Vehicle Division’s website. Here, look for Lien Motor Vehicle Inquiry in the Other Services box.

[IMAGE: Where to find Lien Motor Vehicle Inquiry]

After paying $1.50 on your debit or credit card, all you have to do is type in the car’s Vehicle Identification Number, also called the VIN.

The VIN is a unique 17-character ID. It's usually located on the dashboard on the driver's side, as well as on the door post of the driver's side door.

"The easiest way to view it is to stand outside the vehicle on the driver's side and look at the corner of the dashboard where it meets the windshield.," according to AutoCheck.com.

Once you enter the VIN, you’ll instantly be told whether the car you’re looking to purchase has a lien on it like a title loan or if it is indeed a clean title with no liens.

Another option is to meet the car’s seller at your nearest MVD branch. Here, an MVD representative can verify whether the title is clean. If it is and you like the car, pay the seller and have the title switched into your name right there.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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