SACRAMENTO, Calif. -

Investigators from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Saturday conducted an undercover operation throughout the state to target unlicensed car dealers who prey on disadvantaged buyers.

DMV officials say these unlicensed dealers pretend to be private sellers with the intent of flipping unsafe, used vehiclesUndercover officers issued 93 citations gave 68 warnings, impounded 109 vehicles and arrested four individuals on outstanding warrants during Saturday’s operation.

Unlicensed car dealers -- called "curbstoners" -- typically and repeatedly purchase low-end vehicles from private individuals and salvage auction yards, and usually do little, if any, mechanical or safety reconditioning. They'll often create "pop up' car lots or lure buyers through advertising on websites such as Craigslist. They will actively and regularly buy and sell vehicles without a license, proper permits of a legally established place of business.

These vehicles often have promblems like odometer tampering, undisclosed frame damage or salvage rebuilt vehicles, faulty safety devices and other problems that may not be truthfully disclosed at the time of sale.

Curbstoners can face several thousand dollars in fines and fees for each confiscated vehicle.

State DMV officials offer the following tips for consumers to protect themselves when purchasing a new vehicle:

  • Be suspicious of cars and vehicles suddenly parked in undesignated areas.
  • Monitor free advertising sites, like Craigslist, for cases in which the same contact phone number appears on various private-party listings.
  • Compare contact information on 'For Sale' signs to see if it is the same.
  • Verify the name on the Certificate of Ownership (title) matches the seller's name.
  • Steer away from sellers who accept only cash and refuse checks or money orders.
  • A curbstoner will not let you have the vehicle independently inspected or provide maintenance records that match the car.
  • A curbstoner will not allow you to conduct a CarFax report because it will detail if the vehicle was sold at auction.