SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — Police in San Rafael are warning the public after a resident was lured into buying a stolen rental pickup truck from Texas. The scam happened earlier this month, when a prospective buyer agreed to meet the seller in the Canal area of San Rafael to look at a vehicle listed for sale on Craigslist.

They met about 9 p.m. June 21 and the victim test drove the car, a Nissan Frontier, and negotiated the price down from $15,000 to $13,500. After paying the seller $13,500 cash, the victim was given the Nissan along with a signed California title.

But on June 24, after going to the California Department of Motor Vehicles Office to register the Nissan, the victim was told that the license plate didn’t match the VIN and that it couldn’t be registered, police said.

The victim attempted to contact the seller but discovered the phone was disconnected, so he contacted San Rafael police. After an investigation, police learned that the license plate on the Nissan was actually from a Pontiac registered out of Stockton.

In addition, a sticker on the windshield was as a Texas Registration Sticker. The license plate number on the sticker was checked and it turned out to be owned by the Hertz Rental Company, possibly rented in Texas.

Although the investigation is continuing, police said it appears the suspect or someone else rented the Nissan in Texas, placed a license plate on the pickup from another vehicle, fraudulently made a title for that vehicle, and then placed it for sale on Craigslist.org.

The San Rafael Police Department hopes to warn the public about the scam and to ask if anyone else has been victimized to contact their local police jurisdiction. Anyone with information on the San Rafael case is asked to call (415) 485-3000.

Police also provided tips for buying anything from a person you don’t know:

  • Trust your instincts
  • Never wire funds to a distant buyer, via Western Union or any other carrier
  • Never give out personal financial information (eBay or PayPal info, checking account number, SSN, etc.)
  • Always remember the most important rule – Buyer Beware

 

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