VIN number mix up prevents woman from selling her SUV - WFSB 3 Connecticut


VIN number mix up prevents woman from selling her SUV

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Carmax told a Plainville woman that it couldn't buy her car because of a VIN mixup. (WFSB photo) Carmax told a Plainville woman that it couldn't buy her car because of a VIN mixup. (WFSB photo)

A woman in Plainville said she tried to sell her car only to find a mix up with the vehicle identification number basically made it worthless.

That was, until the I-Team got involved.

With a new car on order, Leslie Johnson took her 2005 Chevy Equinox to Carmax.

She said she thought it would be a quick stop on the first day of her vacation.

"I haven't had any accidents. I do maintenance like I'm supposed to. I thought it would be a good sell," she told the I-Team. 

But instead of walking out of Carmax with a check, she walked out with a headache.

"I [had] a lot of research to do," Johnson said.

The research was because when Carmax ran her vehicle's history report, the mint-condition blueish-purple SUV with 103,000 miles on it came back as a gray SUV with 160,000 miles that had been in two crashes and ended up at a junkyard in Berlin.

"I expected to leave that day without my car," Johnson said. "I thought they would buy it right then and there."

The Carmax representative was apologetic, according to Johnson. It was obviously a mistake. However, the business wouldn't buy the car.

That was last July.

For the past six months, Johnson said she's been trying to get it sorted out.

The problem, however, is that car records are tracked by VINs. No two cars should have the same VIN.

Johnson found a police report from Waterbury for a car with the same VIN that's etched on her windshield.

Nationwide VIN registries like Autocheck and Carfax provide vehicle history reports.

In Johnson's case, the Autocheck report provided to Carmax said Allstate Insurance totaled that car after a crash and sent it to the junkyard.

Johnson called Allstate, but it saw it couldn't help because the other car was scrapped. It physically couldn't check its real VIN to fix the records.

Johnson resorted to calling the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"This actually dates back to when another vehicle, unrelated to the vehicle we're talking about, was first registered," said Ernie Bertothy, DMV spokesperson. "And it  was first registered with the incorrect VIN, which happened to be the same exact VIN for the customer we're talking about."

Bertothy told the I-Team that the agency's title department was able to find the error, which happened in 2004 before Johnson even owned the vehicle.

Once the DMV had her car's VIN verified, it was able to fixed its history.

"Once we confirmed that the customer had the correct VIN associated with her vehicle, we were able to make the correction in the national title database which shows now that the record has been corrected and her vehicle was not totaled," Bertothy said.

Following the corrections, Johnson said she went back to Carmax, but still left with her SUV because the mileage on the Autocheck report didn't match her odometer. The title history also still showed two different cars with the same VIN.

"I've spent a lot of time on the phone, with emails, trying to research how to get this fixed so I can sell the vehicle," Johnson said. "I don't need two cars."

The I-Team reached out again to the DMV.

After the call, the DMV was able to fix the mileage and title history once and for all.

Johnson said Carmax was great throughout the process. She said it called her this week to say that the title report was now clean and she could bring in the SUV.

The I-Team also reached out to Allstate, which first reported the car was totaled.

It sent this statement:

"Allstate has been working closely with Ms. Johnson to resolve a DMV or dealership error that resulted in one of our customers receiving the same VIN number for their automobile. Once this situation became apparent, our claims team contacted Carfax. We are doing everything that we can to rectify this, including conducting a title search, and are currently working with Ms. Johnson and the DMV to resolve this issue."

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