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10 Ways to Protect your Dealership from Synthetic Fraud

man holding a phone displaying digital identity icons like a wallet, thumbprint, password, and credit card
Article Highlights:

  • Utilize comprehensive vehicle record databases
  • Maintain a secure data environment

Synthetic fraud, a form of identity theft, has become a growing concern across various sectors, including the auto industry. This fraudulent activity involves the creation of fictitious identities or manipulating real identities to deceive lenders, dealerships, and financial institutions for personal gain. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that synthetic identity fraud now accounts for 80-85% of all identity fraud.

In the automotive space, this type of deception poses a growing challenge for dealerships trying to verify customer identities, assess creditworthiness, and finalize sales quickly, all while ensuring they can trust the buyer that’s driving away with their vehicle.

Dealerships are now at a higher risk of losing out due to fraud. Many lenders are now holding dealers responsible and are requiring that the dealership repurchase transactions linked to identity theft. One misstep could lead to a substantial financial loss.

Preventing synthetic fraud at dealerships using real-time vehicle records can be an effective strategy to mitigate risks and protect against fraudulent activities. By leveraging up-to-date vehicle records and implementing robust verification processes, dealerships can minimize the chances of synthetic fraud occurring.

Here are some tips and considerations to help prevent synthetic fraud:

1. Utilize comprehensive vehicle record databases: Access reliable and updated vehicle record databases, such as those provided by companies like Auto Data Direct (ADD). These databases will provide accurate information about a vehicle’s history, including ownership, accident history, and title status.

2. Verify Trade-in vehicle identification numbers (VINs): Before finalizing any transaction, thoroughly validate the VIN of the vehicle being traded or sold. Check it against the state vehicle record database to ensure the owner matches as well as the vehicle’s make, model, and history. Any discrepancies may indicate potential fraud.

3. Authenticate vehicle titles and documentation: Validate the authenticity of vehicle titles and supporting documentation. This process, again, can involve cross-referencing the information with a NMVTIS and state record search and relevant authorities, confirming the vehicle title is genuine, and checking for any signs of tampering or forgery.

4. Conduct background checks on potential buyers: Perform thorough background checks on buyers, especially for high-value purchases or situations that raise suspicion. Verify the buyer’s identity through reliable means, such as government-issued identification documents.

5. Implement identity verification processes: Establish stringent identity verification processes for all customers. This process may include requesting multiple forms of identification, verifying the information against reputable databases, and employing identity verification services to detect potential synthetic identities.

6. Monitor for suspicious patterns: Continuously monitor transactions and customer behavior for any suspicious patterns that may indicate synthetic fraud. Look for red flags such as conflicting information, unusual buying patterns, or discrepancies between the provided information and the vehicle records.

7. Train dealership staff: Educate and train your dealership staff about synthetic fraud, common red flags, and best practices for verifying vehicle records. Provide them with the tools and resources to effectively identify and address potential fraud attempts.

8. Collaborate with financial institutions and law enforcement: Establish partnerships with financial institutions and local law enforcement agencies to share information and collaborate in fraud prevention efforts. Report any suspected fraudulent activities promptly to the relevant authorities.

9. Stay updated with industry best practices: Stay informed about emerging trends, fraud techniques, and state associations that provide training and supportive information. Regularly review and update your dealership’s processes and procedures to adapt to evolving fraud schemes.

10. Maintain a secure data environment: Safeguard customer information and vehicle records within a secure data environment. Implement strong security measures to protect against data breaches and unauthorized access.


Synthetic fraud presents a significant threat to the auto industry, leading to financial losses, increased costs, reputational damage, and regulatory scrutiny. These proactive measures, including advanced authentication methods, data sharing, education, compliance, and collaboration, are vital for mitigating the impact of synthetic fraud.

(Adapted from content provided by Auto Data Direct.)

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Frank Toms is the Eastern Dealer Services Regional Sales Manager for Auto Data Direct. His focus is on research and product improvements, offering solutions for dealers nationwide to improve their business processes and efficiency while reducing the risks they are exposed to. Frank works with associations all over the country to find the pain points dealers face day-to-day and solutions towards helping them.

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