BMV investigates after woman claims her VIN was stolen

Consumer Reports
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DANVILLE, Ind. (Dec. 14, 2015)-- A central Indiana woman is trying to get her SUV back after it was flagged as "stolen" and repossessed.

Alice Smith's husband bought a GMC Yukon for her at a local auction last year. It was a surprise gift to help her get their three kids around.

"I drove it, insured it, everything, for an entire year," she explained. However, when she went back to a BMV branch this year to renew her plates, she was told her truck was stolen.

"They said 'I’m sorry, we can’t plate this vehicle. It’s showing that it’s a salvaged vehicle and it was reported stolen out of Georgia.'"

The couple lost their truck and were out about $6,000 not counting numerous insurance payments.

"I feel robbed. I truly feel robbed," she said.

She found out that her Yukon had been reported stolen in December of 2010 in Georgia. But something inside her said otherwise. Smith didn't believe that it was the same vehicle.

"I think my VIN on my vehicle is what’s stolen," she told us.

She pointed to the difference in color. The police report for the stolen Yukon said the truck was burgundy. Smith said her Yukon was pewter.

"My truck was never burgundy."

And just months before the burgundy Yukon was reported stolen, Smith's Yukon was at a Michigan repair shop.

Even if it is the same truck, Smith wanted to know why the BMV allowed her husband to register it in the first place? Why wasn't it flagged last year?

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is limited about what they can share, because of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act. However, a spokesman told us  BMV employees use a third party system to check VIN numbers on every vehicle that is registered.

There is no way to know what transpired during the initial transaction, the spokesman added, but the BMV branch approved the initial registration based on specific, yet undisclosed proof of ownership. That means Smith and her husband provided enough evidence to prove they were the rightful owners of the Yukon and the vehicle was then registered.

The BMV can't say why red flags weren't raised until this year when Smith returned to the BMV to duplicate her title and re-register her plates.

The spokesman also said the BMV would reach out to Smith and try to figure out what happened, adding that Georgia has now dropped the flag from Smith's Yukon and she can try to reclaim ownership of it.

The auction where the couple bought the truck is now offering to pay for the loss, but it doesn't solve the mystery of what went wrong or ease the shock of losing something as important as the family car.

"It took away something from us, ya know," said Smith. "I’ve never owned anything like that. You know what I mean. And for us to actually build ourselves to finally get to do something like that  and then it just be swept right out from underneath us, took from us. No explanations. No anything."

Consumers can check out VIN numbers before purchasing a vehicle via the National Insurance Crime Bureau website.

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