“Selfie” Suspect Strikes Texas Dealership, How You Can Protect Your Business

The Houston Police Department Auto Theft Division – Vehicle Fraud Unit was recently notified that an individual . . .

Darren A. Schlosser, Sergeant
Houston Police Department
Auto Theft Division – Vehicle Fraud Unit

The Houston Police Department Auto Theft Division – Vehicle Fraud Unit was recently notified that an individual had attempted to use a fraudulent ID at a local dealership. The suspect, who had requested a home delivery, sent the dealership a “selfie” with his ID at chin level in addition to a picture of the Texas driver's license. The individual eventually stopped communication with the dealer.

With the current COVID pandemic, many individuals and businesses have turned to the Internet to complete forms typically submitted in person, including the submission of credit applications for vehicle purchases. However, this can open the door for those individuals wanting to commit a fraudulent act. So what can you do to protect yourself?

Based on the cases we have investigated during the pandemic, here are a few important considerations to help Texas dealers protect their businesses:
  1. Steer Clear Of Remote Deliveries
Remote deliveries increase potential for fraud, so dealers are encouraged to avoid remote deliveries whenever possible and make the delivery location at the dealership, just not indoors.  A true customer with legitimate COVID concerns would find that a good compromise.  After all, what is the difference between delivering the vehicle to a parking lot across town to an unknown person while social distancing or social distancing at your dealership?
  1. Verifying A Customer's Identity Online
    If you begin an online finance process, explain to the customer you are requiring a “selfie” with the ID being used to protect them from identity theft.  Any person who is willing to send their ID via text or email should be willing to send a selfie with their ID.  I have had many investigations where there is a “Kingpin” who sets up the financing ahead of time and then sends in a suspect for the signing process.  Requiring a selfie with an ID will add an extra step for criminals to overcome.
As was the case with the example above, many times the fraudulent ID photo does not look exactly like the suspect using the ID.  This process of obtaining a selfie would help identify these situations early and perhaps set up an arrest situation.
  1. Verifying A Customer's Identity Onsite
    One short year ago, anyone entering your dealership with a mask on would immediately raise concerns about a possible robbery.  During the pandemic, however, nearly everyone is wearing a mask: this is a criminal's paradise. 

    Consider implementing a process at your dealership to verify that the individual presenting the ID is actually the person behind the mask.  At some point, the customer should be required to pull away the mask from a safe distance for a brief moment to ensure it is the same person.  Based upon their response, they could give indicators they are criminals not wanting to reveal their identity.  If anyone shows concerns, ask the question: “Would you give away a $40,000 car to a masked person?”
These are just a few suggestions for dealers; as always, please use common sense to protect your business from fraudulent activity—don't let your business become a statistic.


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