Ways to Tell if a Car Title is Fake or Not

You want to be able to tell if a car title is fake or authentic before you hand over the cash to the seller. Whether you are buying a car from a private seller or a dealer, ensure to be able to tell if the car title is fake or authentic. A dealer can also be tricked to buy a car with a fake title, which may have been stolen, considered stolen, or the title was washed to remove its original brand, including salvage, rebuilt, bonded, etc.

tell if a car title is fake

Even though title fraud is not a specific crime, it is typically prosecuted as grand theft.

How can you tell the difference between an original and a fake title?

How to Tell a Fake Car Title

Below are the ways to spot a fake car title:

Look out for the state’s official stamp

You can spot a fake car title if the title brands, including parts-only, salvage, owner-retained, etc., are conspicuously placed. Compare the watermark and every other official imprint on the title with an original title you own or from a friend. This may be difficult to tell on a wrinkled title certificate.

It is hard to produce a fake car title that looks real because they need the state’s official watermarks and images. However, making a fake title for a car is not impossible and crooks can still make a fake title certificate look similar to an original.

Ensure to use an image of a real title or physical copy for the state of the seller’s title. For instance, if the seller has a Texas title you suspect to be fake, you can obtain an original Texas title certificate online or get a physical copy for the comparison.

The VIN name must match the name of the title

Vehicle history inspection is one effective way to know if a car title is fake or not. During the inspection, ensure that the title you receive from the seller matches the VIN of the car you want to buy.

The status of the car is marked on most titles. But you can still call the DMV or run a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) check online. You can do this with AAA.

Look it up on Carfax

You can detect a fake car title by checking the VIN via CARFAX. This still helps you to know the true brand of the title and compare it with the brand on the title certificate the seller issues.

Visit the DMV with the seller

If you do not trust the car seller, have them go with you to your DMV or licensing office to complete the title transfer. Do not forget that the seller has to sign the back of the title before you can transfer it and register in your name.

If you are not confident about the deal being sincere, complete all paperwork there at the DMV. If the seller refuses to go to the DMV with flimsy excuses, consider calling off the transaction. The title or licensing office is well versed in spotting a fake title and will help to tell whether the seller is honest or dishonest.

Can You Tell if a Car Title Has Been Washed?

It may be difficult to tell if a car title has been washed and faked because most washed titles also reflect what you find during a title search on vehicle history report services such as Autocheck and Carfax. Nonetheless, you could be fortunate that the forged title still reflects its original brand, which does not match with the brand on the title.

Regardless of what you pull from the vehicle history report, a car title could have been washed to conceal its history and properly documented in that order at the vehicle registration office. Suppose a vehicle is declared a total loss in New York and receives a salvage title, the car is restored and issued a salvage/rebuilt title and sold in New Jersey. In this case, when New Jersey issues a new title, it may not reflect the salvage brand.

While some people change vehicle registration to states to defraud, others just happen as a result of the user moving out of state.

Read also: how long before your insurance pays your stolen car claim?


If the title certificate is wrinkled, mutilated, or illegible, advise the seller to request a replacement title. Otherwise, do not buy the car because some DMVs will not accept a bad-looking title certificate from you.

Make for to follow your instinct and weigh the honesty of the seller from their attitude in the transaction. If the seller is pressurizing you to buy the car while refusing any move to verify the authenticity of the title, look for a different seller.

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