• 9 Investigates: Auto fraud scheme plagues Charlotte-area roads

    By: Blake Hanson

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Story highlights:

    • N.C. ranks second in the nation for number of title-washing cases
    • 74,000 of the country’s 800,000 title-washing cases are from N.C.
    • 68 cabs in Charlotte show signs of possible title-washing

    There’s been a rise in one form of auto scam that's putting potentially dangerous cars on North Carolina roads.
     
    A study from auto group CarFax found North Carolina ranks second for the number of cases of "title-washing." The crime occurs when con men alter documents to remove "salvage" brands on a car's title.
     
    Doing so removes red flags about past issues and allows the con men to sell the car at a higher price than it should be sold at.
     
    "This is a nationwide scam that endangers people's lives," said Chris Basso, spokesman for CarFax.

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    The group's research found North Carolina has the second most title-washed cars on its roads at more than 74,000 out of 800,000 nationwide.
     
    Eyewitness News found that in Charlotte, an alarming number of those cars are taxis.

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    "Those cars that we blindly rely on might not be safe at all," Basso said.
     
    Using CarFax's system, reporter Blake Hanson found a list of 68 cabs registered in Charlotte that showed signs of possible title-washing. He took the list to the city's Passenger Vehicle for Hire Office and found 37 of them currently on the roads as taxis.
     
    That news was startling for locals who use taxis to get around.
     
    "Are you serious? Wow. That is amazing," said Tia Johnson.
     
    "I don't like it. I would rather be in a safe car than be in any car," Twitty said.
     
    Channel 9’s research found cars that had run off roads into ditches and trees. Some were towed away, others suffered severe damage and one was declared a total loss.

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    "I think that the public should be aware if they're in danger," Johnson said.
     
    The city's Passenger Vehicle for Hire Office told Channel 9 all taxis are inspected for safety. Eyewitness News took the numbers to the DMV, which issues the taxi tags to see if it was aware of the problems.
     
    It said it is now conducting research on that information.
     
    CarFax believes it's hard to tell whether cars are safe if you don't know a car's full history.
     
    "These cars might not have been repaired properly. They were in major wrecks or potentially even under water in a flood, and those vehicles might not have been repaired," Basso said.
     
    Many of the cabs identified as possibly being title-washed were individually owned. Channel 9 contacted both companies with company-owned cabs affected, but did not hear back.

    If you would like to run a CarFax report on a car you are looking at, you can do so here.

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