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Automobile Fraud and Unsafe Vehicles: How the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System Can Help You Protect Yourself

This post appears courtesy of the Office of Justice Programs. Consumers can access vehicle information on Automobile theft and fraud negatively impacts public safety and often results in tremendous financial loss to the public.  In addition, car fraud can place unsuspecting consumers in unsafe vehicles.  In 1996, Congress passed legislation to address these crimes and provide consumer protection.  The new law created the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), an electronic system designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold.  This system also assists states and law enforcement in deterring, investigating, and preventing title fraud and other crimes.  The Justice Department has a strong interest in ensuring consumer safety and protection from these crimes.  Since 1996, the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), in partnership with the FBI, has been responsible for the oversight and implementation of this vehicle information system and has invested $22 million in the system to ensure key vehicle information history is available, accessible, and affordable to consumers.  Consumers can access critical nationwide total loss and salvage vehicle information on vehicles by visiting   NMVTIS is the only publicly available system in the U.S. to which all insurance carriers, and auto recyclers, such as junk yards and salvage yards, are required, under federal law, to report to on a regular basis. The Justice Department’s consumer fraud prevention goals are reflected in the purpose and function of NMVTIS, including: preventing stolen vehicles from being resold; protecting consumers from fraud; reducing the use of stolen vehicles for criminal purposes; and providing consumer protection from unsafe vehicles. The entire system has produced remarkable results in decreasing the number of cars stolen; improving recovery rate of stolen vehicles, increasing the ability to identify cloned vehicles prior to title issuance, increasing time and cost savings for state motor vehicle titling agencies, reducing consumer wait time at the DMV, and improving theft and fraud investigative abilities for law enforcement.  For example, Virginia is seeing a 17 percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts and Arizona has a 99 percent recovery rate on stolen vehicles.  The Act required all states to be fully compliant by January 1 of this year, and states unable to comply with all the requirements by that date have been strongly encouraged to submit a NMVTIS implementation plan to the Department. We will continue to work closely with states, law enforcement, and industry stakeholders to maximize the consumer fraud prevention benefits of the system.  To learn more about these efforts, please visit
Updated April 7, 2017