Car was stolen, I think I found it for sale on Craigslist. What do I do?
May 6, 2016 3:42 PM   Subscribe

My car was stolen about 3 weeks ago. Now I just found a listing on craigslist that looks exactly like my car. There are some identifying features in the paint job and interior details that make me think this is, in fact, my car that someone is trying to resell. What do I do now?

I just called the police department of the city where I live and they told me to leave a voicemail. I want something faster. I'm worried that if there is any delay, someone might buy the car and then I'll be out of luck. What are my next options?
posted by Questolicious to Law & Government (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Call the PD where the car is listed? They also have an interest.
posted by zippy at 3:48 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Go down to the police station and get some attention in person, maybe? I wouldn't try to do something like go recover the car yourself. Way too dangerous!
posted by slateyness at 3:48 PM on May 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's not listed in any particular city, just an area south of the city.
posted by Questolicious at 3:57 PM on May 6, 2016

Screenshot the listing in case it's deleted.
posted by bluecore at 4:07 PM on May 6, 2016 [15 favorites]

I assume you have the VIN in your record somewhere? Go check out the car and check the VIN. Maybe take your insurance agent with you, because they hate paying off on a stolen car.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:11 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

You reported your car stolen, right? And you have a copy of the police report? Can you call and specifically ask to speak with the officers who took the report?

Additionally, can you get any specifically identifying details from the photos in the listing? A plate number? A VIN? I hate to recommend that you interact with these people in any way, but could you call, pretend to be interested, and ask for the plates or VIN to run a carfax report, and specifically where the car is located? If you can sleuth out any of this stuff, you may be able to turn that over to the specific cops who took your police report. Which might feel a lot more concrete to them than "Someone on the internet has a Honda Civic that also has a cigarette burn on the cup holder!" which honestly sounds highly unlikely to be your car.
posted by Sara C. at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you have an insurance claim pending, I would call the insurance company.
posted by xeney at 4:18 PM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have no insurance claim pending as I did not have comprehensive insurance on this vehicle.

I've sent an "I'm interested" email.

EDIT: and I got a response! The plot thickens...
posted by Questolicious at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nononono don't try to deal with this on your own. Get to the police asap. I really hope you reported your car as missing.

If you've got a report filed with the police, they'll be the ones contacting the guy/getting this sorted and making sure it's done legally. You don't have much chance of getting that car back on your own unless you're willing to pay for it(even then you're letting a car thief off the hook).
posted by InkDrinker at 4:24 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Bring your extra keys and the police report number with you, and arrange to meet them at an address. The one right next door to the police station. I'm sure there's a fast food place close by.

Once you've confirmed that it's your car, tell the guy you'll have your pal with the money roll by with it, you just wanted to be sure that they weren't going to rip you off. Offer to buy them a Coke. Then call the cops and tell them, "I'm here with my stolen car at the Burger King right next to the police station. Send an officer over right now to arrest the guy trying to sell it to me."

Of course this is pretty reckless, the guy there might be carrying a gun or knife or whatever, but honestly, I'd do it. I am an asshole, never forget that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:39 PM on May 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

Work through the police. It sounds like no detective is assigned, so I second that I'd be calling the officers who took my report.
posted by bearwife at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

What would I do? Contact the person, express interest in the car, and arrange a time to see it. When I got there, I'd ask to see the inside, at which point I'd get in, slam the door, put the key in, drive off, and yell "fuck you!" out the window.

Should you do this? Probably not. But it seems like the most staightforward way of getting your car back.
posted by scantee at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2016 [13 favorites]

I asked my husband (retired cop). TINLA. He said arrange to meet at a specific location. Then maybe do a drive by from a distance. If the person says "it's parked at X location", e.g., on a corner where lots of for sale vehicles are parked. Drive by and look to see if you still think it's yours. The stop somewhere else and call the police non-emergency number and ask for an officer to meet you there.

If the person says "Meet me in the grocery store parking lot.", and you drive by and think it is yours and there is a person waiting there, stop out of sight and call 911.

He did say there is a possibility that there person selling it is not the car thief but someone who bought it maybe not knowing it was stolen. A car thief will be stealing it and joyriding and dumping it, or stealing it and stripping it, or stealing it and unloading it ASAP. The likelihood of a car thief stealing it and just hanging onto it for three weeks isn't the most likely scenario.

Do not recover your own car without calling the police first! You will be driving down the road in what, for all the police know, is a stolen vehicle. Be smart and safe.
posted by Beti at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2016 [16 favorites]

Your insurance company will have your VIN number on file if you don't have it handy.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:47 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

What would I do? Contact the person, express interest in the car, and arrange a time to see it. When I got there, I'd ask to see the inside, at which point I'd get in, slam the door, put the key in, drive off, and yell "fuck you!" out the window.

While I love the derring-do of the Hardy Boy-like adventure, you most def do not want to be pulled over by the popo for driving a car that's been reported stolen.

Yet I feel that if you want to try something like this, you bring a friend who hangs out of sight and records the whole thing, if only to put it on YouTube.

Best to make an appointment to see it and have the cops at the ready.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:51 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree with Beti! Try to get more info- the location or a phone number. Something the police can use to identify them. Keep sleuthing, and good luck!

Oops, this was a few days back. Update us!
posted by serenity_now at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Evidence points to it's not my car after all.

They sent me a photo of the VIN, and it does not match my VIN (unless it has somehow been re-registered with another VIN that has its own purchase/accident/maintenance history). Person has been incredibly flaky when trying to schedule a time to meet, so I still don't have a time or an address to check out this car. It's still listed on Craigslist.
posted by Questolicious at 5:16 PM on May 11, 2016

If it's not your VIN number, it's not your car. There's no such thing as being "re-registered with another VIN". The VIN comes from the manufacturer and is physically emblazoned on the car, forever.
posted by Sara C. at 5:25 PM on May 11, 2016

A joyous update: my car has been found, and it's undamaged! The police contacted me and I picked it up last night. It was towed for street cleaning about an hour south of where I live. It smells like pot but otherwise behaves and drives perfectly. Huzzah!

Thanks to everyone who helped with the detective work on what turned out to be my car's doppelganger. It's been an exciting week. :)
posted by Questolicious at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

It took three weeks to turn up at a municipal tow impound? Hope you're not on the hook for three weeks of storage, and if so you might have a counter-claim that the cops to whom you reported it stolen didn't figure that out in 15 minutes!
posted by spitbull at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2017

« Older Looking for music that resembles one, Bojack...   |   Milwaukee's finest Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.