Car shopping can be a fun experience or a nightmare. The thrill of finally getting behind the wheel of your new dream car can quickly curdle if you run into problems. Disreputable dealers can take advantage of your excitement and try and scam you out of your hard-earned money. What may seem like just an overzealous sales pitch may actually be automotive fraud. When you are sold one thing but expected another, you may be the victim of fraud and the attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. may be able to help. Several state and federal laws exist to protect consumers when unscrupulous dealers take advantage of them.
The auto fraud attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. use the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act when pursuing auto dealer fraud cases in Texas. The DTPA protects consumers against false, deceptive and misleading business practices of all kinds including auto fraud. The Act, enacted in 1973, defends consumers against false or misleading business practices that would otherwise harm or defraud them. The DTPA provides consumers victimized by malicious dealers the legal means to get justice and compensation.
DTPA covers situations commonly encountered by auto customers looking up how to sue their car dealership, as well as other instances of consumer fraud. This includes when a vendor takes advantage of a consumer’s lack of knowledge or experience, when they pass off goods or service dishonestly, advertise goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised, representing their goods as original or new when they aren’t, or knowingly making false or misleading statements when trying to make a sale. If the car dealer lied about financing, this can fall under the DTPA as well. If you feel that you’ve been taken advantage of, it never hurts to take your documentation and experiences to a qualified auto fraud attorney.
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Dishonest dealers can take advantage of unwary consumers in a variety of ways, though being forewarned is forearmed against fraud. Spot delivery scams are a common tactic, where the dealer offers financing rates they know the buyer won’t be approved for, and as such then presents the buyer with a higher monthly payment, higher total sales price, higher interest rate or asks the buyer to bring a co-signer. Bad dealers will spring these changes late in the process when the consumer has their heart set on a specific vehicle, leading them to make decisions that go against their best interests. The best way to avoid such a scam is securing financing outside of the dealership themselves. Demand all paperwork regarding financing upfront before signing anything and consider having said paperwork examined by an attorney before making a final decision.
One of the most common forms of automotive fraud is odometer fraud. Odometer fraud occurs when the mileage shown by the vehicle’s odometer differs from the actual miles driven. As a used vehicle’s mileage often determines its resale value, it’s one of the first things a fraudster will alter to try and get more money from a car they know is worth less. Before the advent of the digital odometer, bad actors would physically remove the odometer and move the numbers back by hand. Counter-intuitively, new digital odometers can be even easier to tamper with using easily found tools that connect to a vehicle’s computer system digitally.
If you think you have been a victim of odometer fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.
Signs of odometer alteration can include loose screws or scratch marks near the dashboard, indicating someone accessed the odometer to tamper with it. Odometer notations in maintenance records that don’t match up with the displayed mileage can also be a dead giveaway. Other signs include wear and tear on parts including gas and brake pedals, which are an often-overlooked symptom of higher-than-expected mileage. A disreputable salesman can easily tamper with digital odometers using tools purchased online for less than $100. If you think you were sold a car with higher mileage than what’s shown on the odometer, a lawyer for car problems can help you get just compensation.
Another common fraudulent sales tactic involves concealing a vehicle’s crash history. Damage to a vehicle’s frame can compromise its ability to keep you safe in case of crash. While laws do not require dealers to disclose whether a vehicle was in an accident, they cannot lie about known prior accidents either.
“Used vehicles are primarily sold ‘as is,’ meaning the vehicle does not have a warranty,’ said Andrew Ross, attorney with Allen Stewart P.C. “However, this does not mean that a seller can lie to the buyer if asked about prior accidents. As such, lying about prior accident damage is significantly worse.”
Ross said if the dealership lied about past crash damage when asked, or provided a falsified vehicle history, you may have legal recourse and you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
“The buyer’s potential claims must be brought within a certain period of time after a date determined by law,” Ross said. “If the buyer does not bring their claim within that time, they will be forever barred from pursuing their claims by the statute of limitations.”
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Almost every vehicle in the United States is built using a “unibody system” upon which the rest of the vehicle is constructed. Damage to this frame compromises its structural integrity and even if it’s repaired, it will never be as strong as it was before. As such, frame damage drastically affects a vehicle’s resale value – something a dealer would want to conceal if they wanted to artificially inflate a vehicle’s value.
While buying a vehicle with frame damage can save you money now, it could cost you later. That cost could come monetarily with more expensive repairs down the line, or worse: it could put your safety at risk in case of a crash. Frame damage can also affect a vehicle’s balance, meaning even without a crash it can be harder to drive safely.
Are you a victim of odometer fraud? Contact Allen Stewart today.
Whenever buying a used vehicle always ask to see a detailed report of the vehicle’s history. A reputable dealer will often present a report, such as a Carfax report, as a perfunctory part of the purchase process. Other websites including iseecars.com/VIN, Vehiclehistory.com and the National Insurance Crime Bureau also offer VIN checks that provide historical information about a vehicle.
If you believe your car dealer defrauded you, the attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. can help. Gather up all the documentation you have regarding your vehicle and reach out as soon as you can. Hiring an auto fraud attorney is the single most important step you can take when seeking justice over auto fraud. Allen Stewart P.C.’s auto fraud attorneys will work with you throughout the lifespan of your claim, keeping you up-to-date on the latest developments and requesting additional statements and documentation whenever needed. Auto fraud can rob you of valuable time and resources, so don’t waste any more of either and contact Allen Stewart P.C. today. The sooner you call the more likely your claim is resolved in your favor.