Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Does ELT Help Prevent Fraud?

Buried in a proposal to states on offering a title check service (on DDI's site to promote ELT programs in US States: AllAboutTitles.com) is a story about how the ELT program helped stop a fraud situation. Reprinted here for your enjoyment (wink).

DDI has feedback from our customer (a lender) about the benefit that the title check program provided in noticing and resolving a dealer fraud situation.

The lender finances a vehicle purchase through a dealer. The vehicle, received as a trade in from a prior purchase, has a prior lien on it. The dealer, instead of using the funds from the lender to pay off the lien, continues to make the loan payments for the prior lien.

An ELT participant, the lender begins to worry as they are alerted that the electronic title has not yet arrived. They use the Title Check program and determine that their lien has not been perfected. After contacting the dealer and receiving his assurances that the process is just waiting on some final paperwork (presumably for the previous lender to relinquish the title and a new title to arrive), the lender decides to wait.

After some additional time (and another use of the Title Check program to verify status is unchanged), the lender decides to contact the previous lender. The previous lender (determined from the “title history” portion of the Title Check) reports that payments continue to be made to their loan. The lender immediately contacts the DMV, stops additional loans through this dealer, and begins prosecution. The dealer is found guilty of fraud and jailed.

The lender was able to keep dealer from obtaining $250,000 in fraud, with 22 titles, losing "only" $50,000 before detecting and terminating the fraud. They attribute the Title Check program with saving the credit union $250,000 in fraud from this dealer.

Reference http://www.charleston.net/news/2008/sep/19/car_scam_investigated55066/.

Is your lender using ELT yet?

UPDATE 1/29/2010: I found out recently that our customer has been able to fully recover the loss, bringing the total prevented/recovered to $300,000.

Image: Bad Car Image

Monday, November 9, 2009

Signing up to be in Pennsylvania ELT

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is requiring anyone wishing to apply for a lien on a vehicle title in Pennsylvania to participate in the Electronic Liens and Titles (ELT) program. Since their program became mandatory (as of July 10, 2008) they have been requiring all lenders (those normally engaged in the business of lending money for automobiles or other titled vehicles) to have an FIN (Financial Institution Number).

The FIN is assigned by PennDOT and must be included on any title application (like the MV-38L). This number is not identical to the IRS assigned FEIN.

Pennsylvania is one of the easiest states to apply to participate in ELT. They do not require a contract or "memorandum or understanding". Just complete their short MV-37 and select a service provider from the list.

My company (Decision Dynamics, Inc.) is (of course) one of the service providers available. For more information about applying with us, please visit http://www.etitlelien.com/ELT.aspx.

Image: Philadelphia skyline from I-95

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two Car Dealers Charged With Loan Fraud

I read a story today about how a dealership had defrauded two banks in Wisconsin. According to the Associated Press, one of the banks was defrauded of 1.7 million dollars over the course of five years.

This kind of theft is inexcusable and needs to be made impossible. Tracking vehicles, VINs, titles and liens should not be a difficult task.

Premier eTitleLien™ is designed to catch (and has) exactly this type of fraud situation. All titles expecting liens are tracked and alerts are made if an electronic title (ELT) is not received when expected. Any available information about a VIN (such as vehicle history) is made available to banks and other lenders.

We are glad that Wisconsin has developed an ELT program and look forward to working with them in the future in an effort to eliminate this kind of fraud.

Department of Justice Press Release.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Same Day Title in South Carolina

The South Carolina DMV has implemented a program to allow vehicle owners to receive a title immediately when paying off a loan. It does require the lender's cooperation, but it is a great feature of the ELT program to have available when trying to sell your car to someone from out of state.

If your lender is part of the Electronic Liens and Titles program, they can submit an "expedited" title request to the DMV. This removes the lien and changes the status on the title to enable you to get an over the counter title at any DMV office.

The beauty of this feature is even if you are standing in the DMV office the lender can issue the expedited release and you can get a title in real time.

Thank you, SC DMV.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lenders: Convert Your Paper Titles!

As part of their ELT program, several states offer an opportunity to convert your existing paper titles to electronic titles. Some states, such as Virginia, expect this to be a one time process and would like to receive a CD from you. Other states, notably Georgia, make the conversion process extremely simple for lenders. Our product, Premier eTitleLien™, makes converting as easy as possible.

But why would you want to?

1. Keep all your titles in one place. No more drawers.
2. No more misfiled titles.
3. Help reduce fees on printed titles. (Your mileage here will vary.)
4. Let the state mail the title once you release it.
5. Take advantage of specifying an alternate mailing address when releasing the title.
6. On release, Leave the title as an eTitle for the vehicle owner.
7. Take advantage of states that allow an expedited title to be picked up by the owner once you release it.

So convert your titles, and do something else with the paper.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pennsylvania: You must use ELT

At DDI we are pleased to be working with a great program like ELT. I've worked with projects (and products) that I was less-than-excited about but ELT is not like that. The program really does benefit everyone involved (lenders, vehicle owners, and states).

So if you are a state like Pennsylvania and you've got this great program (ELT) but participation is low - what options do you have? You can work on your processes to make participating easy, low-cost, and beneficial. Florida has worked to reduce the need for a paper title when transferring ownership or applying for a lien. Wisconsin has a free online program lenders can participate in.

Or you can require it. Pennsylvania is the trailblazing state taking this route. If you are in the regular business of providing auto loans, in state or out, you are required to use ELT when applying for a lien and removing a lien from a title.

They are not the only state taking this approach. Both Louisiana (by January 1, 2010) and California (by January 1, 2012) have passed legislation making participation mandatory. Arizona's mandatory legislation (by May 31, 2010) has resulted in the department revising their processes to make participation easier.

While we'd love to see all states work on simplifying the lien process, ELT programs are beneficial to everyone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why lenders should care about ELT

Four words: No more paper titles! This means you no longer have to
open the title,
match to existing loan
(returning it to the DMV if it does not match),
compare for accuracy,
update suspense codes,
handwrite the release,
or mail to the customer.

That's just for starters. Personally I love checking incoming documents for accuracy (did they get the right owner recorded for the vehicle?). I do it for fun on my lunch break. My work includes validating mail as part of my benefits package. But I know not everyone enjoys it like I do. (You did catch the sarcasm, right?)

For more information on our ELT solution, Premier eTitleLien™, check out our website at eTitleLien.com.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention fewer paper cuts. :)

Texas: Title Paper Stolen

We received an alert from Texas DOT yesterday about blank Certified Copy of Original title certificates and 72-Hour temporary registration permits stolen from one of their regional offices. This is blank paper - it does not constitute an identity theft. However, blank title paper is very valuable to someone attempting to get a loan fraudulently.

This is a serious situation, and DDI encourages anyone to contact their local law enforcement or one of the contacts listed on the alert. "The stolen Texas Certified Copy of Original titles listed above may not be used as proof of ownership, are fraudulent if presented for any purpose and constitute possession of stolen property."

We need to continue to encourage lenders to participate in Electronic Liens and Titles (ELT) and states to offer ELT and eTitle services to vehicle owners. ELT programs (and our application in particular) add significant fraud prevention measures that benefit everyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why vehicle owners should care about ELT

You own a car. You have a loan. Your lender has your title. Why it benefits you that they are using ELT:

1. Once your loan is paid off, you get a clean title (no lien) mailed to you from the DMV.
2. If you lose that title, a duplicate title is available from the DMV. Without ELT, you have to go back to the lender to have them get you a new title.
3. Hopefully that lender still exists.
4. Less expensive: if you did want to get a clean title, you'd have to apply for a new one.
5. The title comes faster. DMV processes ELT transactions electronically. Your title gets printed and mailed quicker.
6. Available same day in SC, VA. Your lender can send a message to the DMV and you can pick up a clean title the same day in South Carolina and Virginia.
7. Your lender can help ensure that the DMV has your correct address; no more titles getting lost in the mail.

I love working with ELT: it's inexpensive and helps everyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to save $75 in Florida

We had a question from one of our lenders yesterday: In Florida, if an owner's title is electronic (an e-title) do they need to get a paper title in order for us to apply for a lien?

Short answer: no. Save yourself $75 (see correction below) $10 and just complete a Form 82139.

Premier eTitleLien™ - our ELT solution for lenders - generates the FL form 82139 and other state title application forms.

For more details on electronic titles in Florida, see their FAQ, question 4.

CORRECTION: The savings for this scenario is $10.00. According to Florida, a duplicate title (as when a printed title is lost) costs $75. Requesting a printed copy of an electronic title is $2.50 (or $10 for expedited service available at some Tax Collector offices).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What is an electronic title (etitle)?

There are three states that are innovating a new kind of vehicle title: the electronic title or e-title. (A vehicle title is proof of ownership of a car, motorcycle, trailer, mobile home, or other "thing" that travels on roads.) An electronic title is different from a paper title only in that it is not printed; the important part - proof of ownership - is still there as you are still the registered owner of the vehicle.

Florida, Ohio, and Virginia all try to keep your title electronic. Their goal in this is to reduce the number of duplicate titles that have to be printed ("I lost my title") and cut down on fraud and theft. This is good for vehicle owners as we no longer have to keep track of that piece of paper.

I recently paid off the loan on my car. In my state (South Carolina) lien information is printed on the title. My lender signed the front of the title and sent the title to me. The lien is released on the face of the title, but not with the DMV. That means, if I didn't already know the process, if I lose the title and try to sell my car...
  1. I go to the DMV and ask for a duplicate title. They look up my record and tell me there is still a lien on it and that I have to get a title from my lender.
  2. My lender is still around. Phew. (99 bank failures so far in 2009. Yikes.)
  3. I pay the duplicate title fee($15 in SC, $75 in FL - holy cow) to my lender. My lender requests a duplicate copy of the title.
  4. I wait.
  5. My lender receives the title in the mail, releases the lien (again) and mails me the title.
  6. I wait.
  7. I get the title and can sign it over to the new owner.
If only SC was doing what FL, OH, and VA are doing... My lender could have sent the title (with lien released) to the DMV which is where I need it to be anyway when I'm trying to sell a car.

In Florida, electronic titles are called "Electronically Maintained Titles" or e-titles. More information on them is here: http://www.flhsmv.gov/HTML/emt.htm. Florida is working to improve their processes to eliminate the need for a paper title in any DMV transaction. Florida also has a free title check service so owners can check on their title. Ordering a paper title is simple.

Ohio calls electronic titles "electronic titles" (clever) or "non-printed titles". They have a FAQ with details about titles in general, and also offer a free title check service. You don't need a paper title on a trade-in to a dealer.

Virginia just calls this "electronic titles". They have a short list of instructions on requesting a printed title and picking it up from a customer service center.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Title Check!

If you are lucky enough to live in Ohio or Florida (or have a vehicle that lives there), you have an excellent free service available for automobile titles. Both of these states have implemented a free title check service, allowing you to research a vehicle title.

Why would you want to? For owners, this lets you:
  • Examine a title before purchase to verify status, owner, mileage, etc.
  • Check to see if a bank has released your lien after you've paid off your loan
  • Check a title status before requesting a non-printed title (etitle) be printed.

For lenders, this lets you:
  • Verify title status and vehicle details prior to authorizing a loan amount.
  • Verify that all existing liens are expected.
  • Confirm that your lien has been successfully placed.
  • Check that a printed title was issued to you.

Florida's Vehicle Information Check is here: https://www6.hsmv.state.fl.us/rrdmvcheck/mvcheckinq

Ohio's Online Vehicle/Watercraft Title Inquiry is here: https://www.dps.state.oh.us/atps/

DDI's application for lenders - Premier eTitleLien - works with these and other title check sources and integrates with the Electronic Lien process.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Simply Reducing Fraud

As part of their ELT program, both the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Administration and the Georgia Department of Revenue (Motor Vehicle Division) have implemented a very simple measure to prevent one kind of fraud. It didn't require a lot of retraining of staff or a new form to be developed. It's actually easier for lenders to use. There were no new fees associated with it.

Ask any lender if they have ever dealt with a case where their lien was removed from a title without their knowledge or consent - they only found out after the fact. But this is no longer possible in Georgia and Florida. Why not?

A lien on an "electronic title" can only be released electronically.

The lender who placed the lien must send an electronic record to the state motor vehicle office to have that lien released. This does not slow down the process for a vehicle owner - the state immediately releases the lien (once the electronic request is received) making the title available to the owner. In Georgia, a title will automatically be mailed. In Florida, an owner can request a title to be printed as needed.

We mentioned earlier about the benefit of reduced paperwork on releases. This policy goes a step further and prevents paperwork. DDI hopes all states will adopt similar policies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

No paperwork needed to release liens

One of our newer customers provides financing to dealers. (They specialize in it; the industry term is "floorplanning".) As we're going over the program (Premier eTitleLien) during a training session, they remarked "You mean we don't have to fill out any forms to release our lien!" They couldn't get over how much easier the ELT program made things for them.

We've been saying this for a long time. One reason we like our product so much: everybody benefits.

It's nice to hear the pleased surprise of a new customer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cash for Clunkers bump

Friends and family occasionally ask if we, as a company working with auto loans, saw a bump in our number of transactions based on the Cash for Clunkers program. The answer is yes, and we also see a follow-on decline in those transactions.

I thought this was interesting since I would not have claimed that we have a pulse on the industry (our customers come from all over in various markets). I found a new Google tool that highlights financial trends. Clicking on the "Google Auto Buyers Index" makes it *very* obvious that there was an industry bump. I doubt our transactions could have failed to reflect that bump.

Overall the program is probably neutral for us. People's need for cars is pretty stable - a decline in the economy probably just means more used cars change hands instead of new ones. Thanks for asking. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Texas: Releasing an Electronic Title

Texas, being new to ELT, does not currently have a built in way to request a paper copy of a title with a lien. But there is a way. :)

Form VTR-302, Request to Convert an Electronic Title to a Paper Title, is for the exclusive use of an Electronic Lien and Title (ELT) program participant. Only an ELT certified lienholder or vendor may submit this form.

Premier eTitleLien will automate this process as it does the process to request a paper copy of a title in other states. For more information, please contact us at info@etitlelien.com.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Florida: I need a paper title!

We received a call last week from someone with a title to a car in Florida. Florida is one of three states that we work with that keeps titles in electronic format for owners - this is separate from the ELT program. The other states are Virginia and Ohio.

Each of these states have certain transactions, like selling a car to another owner, that must be done with a paper title. (Some transactions do not need a paper title.) This owner needed a paper title. Unfortunately, we have nothing to do with getting paper titles printed for non-customers.

I referred him to a Florida DHSMV page to request a printed title, which is the point of this post. I directed him to the page below, since it is possible to read over the phone. :)


There is a link on that page ("Have DHSMV Print My Title") that takes you to the portal for ordering a title. That page is:


Manual vs Electronic

One obvious question that comes up from anyone hearing about electronic liens and titles (ELT): "What is the difference between what we're doing now and ELT?"

Our simplest answer: "No More Paper Titles".

We like this answer because it is so key. It represents three major points: reducing time spent handling paper, reducing costs related to moving paper around, and reducing fraud through improved information exchanges.

ELT is a fundamental shift: you have to understand that for a lender, the real point is having the lien filed with the state. A paper title is simply proof of lien (and proof of ownership for the owner of course). If that proof becomes a certified electronic message from the DMV, then there is no longer any need to open, read, matchup, verify, scan, file, store, retrieve, mail, or request duplicate copies of a piece of paper.

At a prospective customer's request, we recently outlined some of these differences in a flowchart. I've had the flowchart posted to our website for you analytical folks out there. Have fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009


I've been working on AllAboutTitles.com a bit today. The site is designed to be a resource for states, listing information about what other states are doing with ELT. It's got a list of standard ELT transactions and which ones are supported by different states.

By our records, there are 18 states with some kind of an ELT program: AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, ID, KS, LA, MA, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WI. Some of these states are "closed" to third party providers like DDI, and some we're just not ready to get going in yet.

Since information is not always easy to come by, and harder to compare, I've tried to analyze what each state is doing. I've got 10 of the states' basic transactions identified, but I'd like to take that documentation a lot further and include some other data, including legislation examples from ELT states and vehicle brands (stolen, water damaged, odometer tampering, etc) supported by each state.

Hopefully this will be useful to states considering or defining an ELT program.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What is ELT?

This post was updated!

An ELT program (Electronic Liens and Titles) allows messages related to titles with liens to be exchanged electronically, reducing filing and mailing costs. There is an immediate appeal to a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), who no longer have to print and mail as many paper titles.

The benefits to lenders are greater. (Lenders place liens on vehicles with the DMV when making vehicle loans to their customers.) Both large and small lenders benefit from reduced filing and handling of titles. Receiving an electronic title from a DMV allows lenders to compare the title data with their lien application to ensure accuracy. Perfected titles arrive much quicker and mailing clean titles to customers after a lien is released is handled by each DMV automatically.

Currently, DDI works with 7 state ELT programs: Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Each state implements their ELT program differently depending on state laws. Several states, including FL, OH, and VA no longer automatically print paper titles for vehicle owners, preferring to leave titles in "electronic" format until a paper title is needed.