Buying a car privately? Beware of stolen vehicles, Toronto police say

Buying a car privately? Beware of stolen vehicles, Toronto police say


Police reported 9,606 vehicle thefts in 2022, a 192 per cent increase over 2015

Toronto police are calling on the public to beware of illegal motor vehicle sales across the city as the force aims to stem the rapidly growing scourge of car thefts.

At a news conference on Thursday, the Toronto Police Service, Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council and Toronto Crime Stoppers announced a new campaign to address fraud involving illegal motor vehicle sales.

The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council said 30 per cent of private car sales in Ontario are by “curbsiders,” a term that refers to unregistered vendors who often trade in stolen cars.

Maureen Harquail, CEO and registrar of the council, said “curbsiders” are people who pose as private sellers, pretending to sell a personal vehicle, when in reality they are in the business of buying and selling used cars for profit without a licence or registration, which is illegal in Ontario. She said in many cases, the cars are stolen.

“Curb-siding is an issue that is on the rise due to vehicle inventories, the soaring costs of cars and continued supply chain disruptions,” she said.

Toronto police reported 9,606 vehicle thefts in 2022, a 192 per cent increase over 2015, and insurance industry group Equite Association has said that car thefts across Ontario rose more than 48 per cent in 2022 over the previous year.

“We all know that community safety and well-being is a shared responsibility. And for us to really ensure the safety of Torontonians, we have to take this collaborative approach to public safety,” Kelly Skinner, Toronto acting deputy police chief, told reporters.

Make sure to get used vehicle information package

Consumers buying used cars should make sure to get a used vehicle information package that would contain background details on a vehicle and to go through a dealer registered with the council, said Harquail with the motor vehicle industry council.

The council administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, which regulates motor vehicles sales in Ontario.

Its investigative team laid a total of 2,115 charges in 2022, more than double the total in 2021. The total included more than 1,000 charges against alleged curbsiders, said Harquail. 

Private sales are not covered by the act, she added. 

Toronto Crime Stoppers chair Sean Sportun said police will be working more closely with the motor vehicle industry moving forward.

He said the public also has a responsibility to report any information about illegal curbside sales.

Sportun says people should not be afraid of facing retribution from criminals for tipping off police, assuring that anonymously reporting to Crime Stoppers is a secure way to provide information. 

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