Grand Theft Auto Fraud: Who is at Risk and How to Stop it

February 19, 2024 by Alex Lvoff

It’s 2024, and it has never been easier to buy a car in person or online, but automobiles are not quite as affordable as prior to the pandemic. While everyone is looking for the best car deal, some folks are pushing it too far and are falling for auto scams.

What is auto lending fraud?

Fraud perpetrators are drawn to sectors they perceive as highly lucrative. The accessibility of online vehicle financing and purchasing, coupled with the substantial financial magnitude associated with automotive transactions, renders the auto industry an optimal avenue for cash-out endeavors. Auto lending fraud refers to deceptive or fraudulent activities related to obtaining or processing auto finance. This can involve various schemes aimed at misleading lenders, financial institutions, or individuals involved in the lending process.

Criminal networks now operate on social media sites like Facebook and Telegram, offering a unique car buying service using synthetic identities. They create synthetic identities, finance cars with no down payment, and deliver vehicles to addresses chosen by buyers. The process involves selecting a car online, sending a small amount of dollars and a photo against a white background, and receiving a fake driver’s license. Those networks claim to exploit car sites’ policies successfully. While appealing to those in urgent need of a car, the service poses significant risks as the synthetic identity may be used for other fraudulent activities beyond car purchase.

Who is at risk?

Everyone involved in the car buying process is at risk of falling victim to auto loan fraud. Car buyers looking to secure financing, as well as lenders, need to be aware of the potential red flags and take necessary precautions to safeguard their interests.

Thieves leverage the internet and electronic transactions to perpetrate auto loan fraud. While the growth of online commerce has improved many aspects of trade, it has also made personally identifiable information and financial details vulnerable to data breaches. Unscrupulous individuals can gain unauthorized access to such information, providing the foundation for various identity theft schemes.

The internet also facilitates the creation of seemingly legitimate documents that support auto loan fraud. Online services exist to help fraudsters fabricate income statements and fake employment verification from fictitious companies. This trend has made auto loan fraud an increasingly popular method for acquiring vehicles with minimal cash and risk.

Another auto loan fraud trend is the increased use of CPN (Credit Privacy Number). Credit Repair firms introduced a novel strategy targeting consumers — the CPN (Credit Privacy Number). Marketed as a nine-digit alternative to a Social Security Number (SSN), CPNs are purportedly usable for obtaining credit. However, it is crucial to note that utilizing a CPN for credit applications constitutes a criminal offense, potentially leading to legal consequences, and car dealerships should not accept them.

Detecting auto loan fraud

There are several types of auto loan fraud worth noting to better understand the landscape:

  1. Income fabrication: Prospective buyers may falsify their income details to qualify for a larger loan or better terms. Lenders should verify income using documents like pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements and watch out for inconsistencies.
  2. Employment misrepresentation: Applicants could lie about their job titles or employment status. Lenders should verify employment details through HR departments or by directly contacting the employer.
  3. Trade-in vehicle deception: Some individuals may overstate the value of their trade-in vehicle to secure a higher loan amount. Lenders should perform thorough appraisals or consult trusted sources to ascertain the accurate value of the trade-in.
  4. Identity fraud: Fraudsters can assume someone else’s identity, commit first party fraud or create a fictitious persona to obtain an auto loan. Lenders must verify the applicant’s identity using reliable identification documents and consider using identity verification tools.
  5. Forged documentation: Fraudsters may forge or alter documents like income statements, bank statements, or driver’s licenses. Lenders should scrutinize documents carefully for discrepancies or signs of tampering.
  6. Straw borrower fraud: In this scenario, someone with poor credit convinces a friend or relative with better credit to front the deal, posing as the buyer. A better credit score allows for better terms or a more valuable vehicle. The actual buyer may continue to make payments to the friend, or the loan may become delinquent, negatively affecting the friend’s credit score. In extreme cases, the straw buyer is part of a fraud ring, and the vehicle has already been sold in a foreign market.
  7. Synthetic identity fraud: Data breaches providing personally identifying information enable identity theft schemes. Perpetrators use illicitly acquired information to create false borrower profiles that appear authentic. These profiles typically have excellent credit, a social security number, an affluent home address, stable employment, and other attributes that make them seem like desirable borrowers. However, a detailed investigation reveals subtle inconsistencies indicative of high risk.

How to prevent auto loan fraud

To combat auto loan fraud and protect profitability, auto lenders can leverage technological advancements. By applying analytics and machine learning to millions of loan applications and histories, you can identify fraudulent patterns and inconsistencies. Machine learning can determine the type of suspected fraud and provide a confidence factor to guide further investigation and verification.

Additionally, you should:

  • Conduct thorough background checks on prospective buyers and verify their personal information and documents. and verify their personal information and documents.
  • Implement a comprehensive loan underwriting process that includes income verification, employment verification, and collateral evaluation.
  • Educate employees about common fraud schemes, warning signs, and best practices to ensure they remain vigilant during loan applications.
  • Foster a culture of cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, sharing information about suspected fraudsters to help prevent future incidents.

It is important for individuals and businesses to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. Car dealerships and financial institutions work to prevent fraud through proper identification verification, credit checks, and adherence to legal and ethical standards. If you suspect fraudulent activity or identity theft, it is crucial to report it to the appropriate authorities immediately.


Taking advantage of the latest fintech capabilities, such as cloud-based loan origination that integrates analytics, machine learning, and automated verification services, can significantly reduce the likelihood of fraudulent applications becoming another auto lending fraud statistic.

By combining the best data with our automated ID verification checks, Experian helps you safeguard your business and onboard customers efficiently. Our best-in-class solutions employ device recognition, behavioral biometrics, machine learning, and global fraud databases to spot and block suspicious activity before it becomes a problem.

Learn more about our automotive fraud prevention solutions

*This article includes content created by an AI language model and is intended to provide general information.

Related Posts

As the evolution of the automotive industry continues to unfold, certain vehicles retain their prominence, offering not only versatility...

April 4, 2024 by Kirsten Von Busch

Property managers must leverage a solution that provides accurate, efficient, and compliant income and employment verification.

March 13, 2024 by Ted Wentzel

Learn about the benefits of a fraud consortium and how Experian's solutions can help prevent fraud without inconveniencing consumers.

March 11, 2024 by Alex Lvoff

Subscribe to our Auto blog

Enter your name and email for the latest updates.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.