If I unknowingly bought a car that may have been stolen, what now?

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If I unknowingly bought a car that may have been stolen, what now?

A woman flagged me down at work and claimed that my car was the car that was stolen from her. She never reported it stolen. I now have a clear title in my name and insurance and everything. I got the title from the guy I bought it from and went to register the vehicle. A week later, I got the title in the mail. The private seller I bought it from has all the documentation of the purchase of the car from the person he bought it from. She claimed her cousin sold it while she was in jail. What do I do?

Asked on May 16, 2011 under General Practice, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

For the moment, you do nothing: talk is cheap, so to speak, and the woman has provided you no evidence. To the contrary, since you have title, the evidence suggests that your purchase was valid.

If you are contacted by the police, show them the title; they will very likely at that point conclude that, at least vis-a-vis you, there is no crime and no basis to take the car from you.

If contacted again by the woman, politely tell her that as far as you are concerned, you purchased the vehicle lawfully and have good title.

If sued by this woman for the car, you can decide whether to defend the action or not. If you defend, it will be on the basis that you are a bona fide purchaser in good faith. To try to get the car back--since someone cannot buy a vehicle belonging to another--she'd have to be able to prove that the car was stolen. Since she never reported it as stolen, that is unlikely.


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