Police are warning residents of potentially costly thefts that may occur when selling a vehicle.
Officers have noted a new trend that has emerged with thieves stealing cars during test drives, according to a release from the Calgary Police Service.
At both dealerships and with private sellers, one thief—using a fake driver’s license—goes for the test drive and leaves the vehicle they pulled up in as collateral, while another steals that original car.
“In most cases, the original vehicle was also stolen,” the release read.
This warning comes after the arrest of 22 year old Sebastian Thomas of Calgary, who police believe is linked to at least 15 vehicle thefts throughout southern Alberta and seven in Calgary alone.
Thomas was arrested on Thursday, September 7 and was laid with 23 charges including identity theft, driving an uninsured motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle while disqualified, and theft of a motor vehicle.
After a search of Thomas’ vehicle—or the vehicle he was driving in at the time, at least—police found multiple sets of keys, stolen or fake IDs, a machete, and a baseball bat.
The Calgary Police Service is warning businesses and private sellers to be wary when selling vehicles, and have offered these tips to mitigate the possibility of a car being stolen:
Never meet in a secluded place. CPS invites citizens to use the parking lots of district offices to facilitate sales arranged online. The presence of law enforcement or video surveillance may deter unlawful behaviour.
Ask the buyer for multiple pieces identification and confirm the information listed on each is consistent. Take a photo of it for your reference.
Ask the buyer multiple questions to ensure they are actually interested in purchasing a vehicle. Vague and inconsistent answers should be considered red flags.
Use text messaging or phone calls instead of emails to arrange a sale, as these forms of communication can be traced more easily.
If possible, arrange to meet at an automotive garage where the vehicle’s quality can be assured, instead of offering a test drive.
If you are considering letting someone test drive your vehicle, meet in a public place and ask how the prospective buyer got there. Record the licence plate of that vehicle and make sure you have something of theirs as collateral. If you’re planning on accompanying the prospective buyer on a test drive, bring someone else with you. Always set a time limit for the test drive before you give them the keys and make sure you’ve removed any valuables or important documents first.
If you aren’t comfortable conducting a sale, walk away or use a reputable auto dealer.