The theft of Toyota Tacoma trucks is fueling a scam that is bilking Northeast Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley residents out of thousands of dollars, according to Detective Jeana Franco at Northeast LAPD's auto theft unit.
According to Franco, the perpetrators of the scam are stealing the trucks from northeast neighborhoods, swapping their license plates with other vehicles and then advertising them for sale for $6,000 to $8,000 on major streets in the valley.
When the buyer attempts to register their new truck, Franco said, they find out that the registration is invalid, the vehicle is stolen and that they're out the money they spent on it.
In the last month alone, nine Tacoma trucks were reported stolen in the northeast neighborhoods of Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Silver Lake.
Franco said that the scam sometimes works in the reverse direction, with one stolen Tacoma being purchased in in Highland Park last month.
"If they steal it in one area, they'll try to sell it in the other," Franco said. "They'll just park it on the side of the road and wait for an unsuspecting buyer to come along."
Franco said there are some steps residents can take to help squash the scam. First, she said, Tacoma owners should install anti-theft devices, like a Club, and secure their license plates so they are not easily removed; she said the ease with which most plates can be swapped has helped the scam run outside of LAPD's radar.
"If an officer sees a Tacoma and runs the plate, he' s not going to be able to recognize that it's the wrong plate unless he checks the V.I.N.," Franco said.
She said that folks should also be very suspicious of Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner trucks advertised for sale on the street.
"I wouldn't say they should be suspicious of all vehicles for sale, but they should definitely be suspicious about Tacomas," Franco said.
LAPD is encouraging residents who see any Tacoma trucks being sold in their neighborhood to contact the auto theft detectives unit at 213-847-4264