San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

OIJ warns of increasing car theft scams

Considering selling a car online or in the classifieds? Be careful, says the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). 

Last month saw an increase in car theft scams stemming from online or print advertisements, the OIJ reported. According to agents in OIJ’s auto theft unit, vehicle buyer scams are occurring throughout the country. 

“The victim announces the sale of a vehicle in newspapers or on the Internet and are contacted by fake buyers,” a statement from OIJ warned. “When perpetrators call, they give false names and tell sellers that they can’t come to see the car because of work. Instead, they promise to send a family member or mechanic.” 

According to the OIJ, scammers ask sellers to meet at a separate location, where they employ one of two tactics. The first tactic is armed robbery. After a seller arrives, the fake buyer pulls a weapon, and steals the car and other belongings. 

The second tactic is more complicated. After arranging a location for a vehicle’s purchase, criminals publish an online or print classified to hire a driver. The driver is instructed arrive at the site of the purchase.

The thief and owner meet to sign paperwork, while the hired driver unknowingly steals the vehicle and drives it to a predetermined location. 

According to the OIJ, several hired drivers said they were unaware of their involvement in crimes.

They said that when they delivered the vehicles, they too were robbed of their belongings.

Tips to Stay Safe

• Never sell a vehicle by yourself and take a trustworthy companion with you.

• When selling an auto, always keep it in view.

• Ask a police officer or security guard to accompany you during the transaction.

• Agree to meet in a place determined by the seller, not the buyer.

• Sell the vehicle in a public location.

• Ask the buyer to provide personal information prior to the transaction, such as employment, location and method of pay.

• In the event of a possible scam, call the OIJ’s auto theft unit at 2295-4714, 2295-4715, 2295-3853 or 800-8000-645 (OIJ).

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