By on July 31, 2015

Phony service history

Hat tip to reader Alexander who sent us a link to a comprehensive 1991 BMW 325ic’s service history offered up on eBay because someone just probably wants them for the “novelty.”

The items reportedly include purchase paperwork and dealer maintenance records for an Alpine White, automatic convertible built around April 1991. Paperwork from Hawaii, Washington and California is included in the mildly suspicious auction lot listed with a Washington location.

“I want to frame those oil change receipts and hang them on my walls,” said nobody browsing this eBay listing.

We called attorneys general for New York, Washington and Colorado to see if misrepresenting your car’s service history was explicitly illegal and haven’t heard back. We also reached out to the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation to hear their takes.

It’s possible that phony service records wouldn’t be against the law in the same way as rolling back an odometer, but opinions seem to vary.

(Surely, if you pick up some junker BMW 325ic with a pristine service history and the whole thing blows up in your face, there’s gotta be a rule for that, right?)

Speaking with a few attorneys, we heard it could be easily proven fraudulent to pass these records off as legitimate paperwork for a car in which they don’t belong in a common law sense, but likely only if the service records were presented as belonging to that specific car.

Rick Wynkoop, a Colorado-based attorney, said selling the documents online isn’t against the law, but passing them off as belonging to a car that they don’t probably is. Wynkoop suggested something more sinister afoot — perhaps some VIN smudging — but phony service records was new to him.

“I can’t imagine there’s enough juice there to squeeze,” he said regarding a seller’s ability to use the paperwork in a private transaction.

Either way, it’s very definitely slimy.

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15 Comments on “Who Wants To Forge Their Car’s History?...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Don’t they print eh VIN or license plate# on the invoice? At least for my cars the receipts include the VIN and my name etc.

    Reason #1009573475 to buy new cars and keep them for 12 years. the only way to know they are maintained. Even regular honest receipts, you never know if the work actually was done or done properly. Ask me about the alleged brake fluid flushing I paid a shop for…

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I have a folder in the trunk with all my service receipts: oil changes, regular service, brake flush, etc. How much, if anything, should I expect as a premium for a fully documented service history?

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Why carry it around with you? Mine live in a file cabinet. Not that it’s a security issue like leaving your title in the car, but years of heat and cold cycles can really do a number on paperwork, especially thermal printed receipts.

        • 0 avatar
          HerrKaLeun

          +1 for keeping in the house. I sort them by car and when I sell the car I can give the buyer all the receipts (I black out my phone number or other information about myself). I do the same with receipts for self-maintenance material.

          The shop invoices also contain the mileage of the visit, so it would be obvious at some point that this is a different car.

    • 0 avatar
      insalted42

      Even if each of the records has both the VIN and license plate, all it takes is one not so diligent buyer to flip through the service records without paying attention to the numbers.

      My question is, how much could one actually expect to profit from forging the history of a 91 BMW convertible. Even pristine, well-maintained examples can’t be worth much more than a few grand….so you’d get maybe $4,000 instead of $3,500 with less records?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yes, the VIN is on there, so this would never really work – unless the buyer of your rare BMW convertible is an idiot.

      Which they wouldn’t be.

      And it’s only worthwhile on rare/valuable stuff, where people DO their research before buying. I can’t see many being fooled by this. And the types of cars where people don’t research first don’t NEED a history like this, because most don’t care (though I do. Gimme them papers).

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Jeez, it’s come to this? well, with the price of used cars these days I can see why. Just more of the ingenuity of the criminal mind supported by the internet and graphics technology.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    If this were a public offer to create records, it might be newsworthy, maybe; it seems to be a stack of paperwork that one could, theoretically and with significant effort, alter to appear as if for another car, I guess, if that’s the implication.

    I’m not sure I understand, but I’ll happily admit ignorance of document forgery.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      I think you are right. Maybe this is just someone trying to sell to scammers, but likely won’t sell it. Actual car-sale-scammers wouldn’t use purchased records (that they still have to forge the actual VIN in).

      Probably just some ex-owner who thinks he can make a buck selling his records to scammers.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    $30 for some BMWs records, or $5 for entry into a junkyard where I can grab all the records I want for free?

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Innocent intentions or not, I still wouldn’t sell documents. Identity thieves are too resourceful in the way they can take innocuous data and create a history. That car went with you wherever you lived; with a little research I can back out much of your life story. That could end up as the most expensive $30 you ever made. So the sensitive stuff gets shredded and the rest goes out with the cat litter.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    the more i think about it, the more interesting i personally think it would be to be able to see just how much money was poured into that BMW over the course of 140k miles.

    im not $40 worth of curious though. mebbe $10?

  • avatar
    George B

    People tend to get rid of cars before some expensive repair, not after the repair is done. I would guess that any car built in 1991 would have lots of worn out parts that require replacement in 2015. Even with service records, the buyer has to know that a 1991 BMW will require repair work and that repair work will be expensive. If repairs were cheap, cars wouldn’t get fed to the crusher.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Not the only time dodgy “documentation” for scamming people has been sold on eBay:

    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR3.TRC2.A0.H0.Xpositive+pregnancy+test.TRS0&_nkw=positive+pregnancy+test&_sacat=0

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