News4 Responds

A Virginia woman bought her dream car. Then the repo truck came — for someone else

"I hear stories and stuff like that but I never knew I would be a victim one day," the woman said.

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You can buy just about anything on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay and Craigslist -- but how do you know you're getting the whole truth from the seller before you hand over your money?

A Virginia woman says she found herself in a financial mess after discovering that the used car she bought from a private seller wasn't what she'd been told.

Barbara Aboagye, from Woodbridge, Virginia, thought that she'd hit the jackpot, and found "a dream come true," she told News4.

"I saw this car, a 2015 Porsche Macan," she said. "And I love it."

There it was, Aboagye's dream car, listed on Facebook Marketplace by a private seller from Pennsylvania, for $25,000.

The two arranged to meet, and according to Aboagye, the seller handed her a clean title. That means there were no liens on the car, and he owned it outright.

She then secured a loan with her bank. The seller got his check, and she got her car.

For 19 months, Barbara said she's been paying down her loan and hasn't missed a single payment. She even paid double some months.

But the joyride came to a screeching halt when, in early spring, she looked out the window and noticed her beloved Porsche was gone.

"I was like, oh my God, what is going on? Is this stolen?" Aboagye said.

She was even more confused when she called police and they told her it wasn't stolen -- it had been repossessed.

"I said, what is going on? How come?" she said.

Aboagye's bank told her they didn't repossess the car, and confirmed she was current on her payments.

So if her bank didn't order the repo, who did?

After weeks of getting no straight answers, Aboagye contacted NBC4 Responds. We went to her house to see if we could get to the bottom of the mystery, and she gathered all of her paperwork for us.

After several hours and several phone calls to all the parties involved, we found the answer: The car was still under the seller's name when it was repossessed.

That's the same name that was on the supposedly clean title she was given.

The seller purchased the Porsche from Carvana in 2020, and financed it through Bridgecrest -- Carvana's finance company. According to Bridgecrest, the seller was delinquent on paying the loan, only making three payments in 2022.

The company said it repossessed the vehicle not knowing about the fraudulent sale.

When Aboagye called the man she bought the car from, he told her the car was paid for.

Bridgecrest is "working with law enforcement to understand what occurred and the unlawful actions the seller took to fraudulently sell the vehicle for which he never paid," the company told News4.

Since Aboagye was able to purchase and register the car unknowingly using a fraudulent title, the vehicle identification number was linked to her home address, which is where the tow truck was sent to repo the car.

"I'm shocked," Aboagye said. "I'm speechless. I hear stories and stuff like that but I never knew I would be a victim one day."

According to Ira Rheingold, the director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, title washing is the most common scam for vehicle titles.

"The person who sold the consumer the car clearly was the person who committed the fraud," Rheingold said.

Title washing is when unscrupulous sellers "wash" a title to remove information, like liens or salvage.

"Fraudsters are out there. They're always looking to take advantage of folks," Rheingold said.

Luckily for Aboagye, her journey had a happy ending. While her repossessed dream car had been sent to an auction house, and was about to go on the auction block, both Carvana and Bridgecrest agreed to release the car so she could take it home.

"I feel so relieved," Aboagye said as she got back behind the wheel. "Super happy. I can't thank you guys enough. I am so grateful."

News4 contacted the seller numerous times, but he never responded.

As for Bridgecrest, they told News4 they contacted several law enforcement agencies but haven't heard back from any of them. They have not pursued any civil action against the seller.

How can I protect myself from title fraud?

When buying a car from a private seller, experts have a few tips:

  • Ask for a photo ID and compare the names to those on the title to be sure they match.
  • If the title is a duplicate, be wary and ask more questions. Ask where the original is and if you can see it.
  • Get a CARFAX report. If it shows the car was salvaged, the title should reflect that. If it doesn't, walk away from the sale.
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