Fake ID unlocks car theft

Feb. 17, 2013 @ 04:41 AM

For 19 years in the car sales business, Barry Cook never had his trust in a customer wanting to take a test drive violated — until recently.
The experience with a thief using a fake ID to steal one of the cars at Tim Taylor Auto Sales now has Cook and his co-workers rethinking how they handle test drives and warning other small dealerships about the scam.
Fortunately, Tim Taylor Auto Sales was able to recover the 2004 Chevrolet Impala taken from the dealership on N. Main Street. Cook said that a customer who came in for a second visit, asking to take a test drive, left with the car and never returned.
Cook was the only one on duty when the man came back for the follow-up visit. He faced the dilemma of closing the office — and possibly losing other customers in the competitive used car market — or securing an ID from the man before he test drove the Impala alone.
Lt. Tracy Perry with the High Point Police Department said it’s unusual for a thief to use a fake ID to steal a vehicle on a test drive. But fake IDs are a regular problem for law enforcement in a variety of other thefts and cons, Perry said.
Cook’s troubles began innocently enough. A man came in to look at the Impala, expressing interest in buying the car.
When he came back a second time, Cook let the man go out alone for a test drive, rather than close the office, and felt somewhat secure because he made a copy of the driver’s license.
“I’ve never had any problems,” Cook said.
But when the man hadn’t returned after three hours, Cook began to worry. He closed the office at the end of the business day, then drove over to the Greensboro address that was on the man’s identification.
Eventually, Cook determined that the address was the residence of a woman who had never heard of the man using her address on his driver’s license. The woman informed Cook that three other auto dealers had contacted her over several weeks about the same scam.
Just when Cook thought the Impala might be gone, the case took a twist that brought the car back to Tim Taylor Auto Sales. Several days after the theft, Cook found a note on the door of his office from another person who bought the Impala and was asking about getting the car serviced. Cook had the unenviable task of telling the buyer that he purchased the Impala for $2,000 from someone who stole the vehicle.
The Impala buyer said that he saw the car listed for sale online. It was bought “with the bill of sale on a piece of notebook paper and no title,” Cook said.
Though Tim Taylor Auto Sales recovered the car, Cook said the experience will change how the dealership does business. Customers either won’t be able to test drive a car alone, or if they do, they will have to leave the keys of their own car at the dealership office as a security measure.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528