Suppose that a person, A, wants to buy a used car in California. A must get the certificate of title (it seems they call it "pink slip" in CA) from the seller. But how can A make sure if this is the real/true paper? Maybe this would be a fake printed paper? Perhaps the car is in fact stolen. How can A check the paper to prevent scams?

  • As edited, this is a question about legal documents, not a request for specific legal advice, and it should not be closed as an RSLA. Sep 11, 2021 at 16:05
  • @DavidSiegel My vote was not because it asks for legal advice, but because it lacks legal content. How to tell whether a document is genuine or not is a practical issue, as evidenced by the current answer which discusses physical properties of the certicicate. Perhaps it would be different if the question asked for some legal process to confirm its authenticity, but the question as it stands is more about how to avoid being scammed. There is nothing legal about what OP could do about this while purchasing the car from the seller.
    – JBentley
    Sep 11, 2021 at 19:49
  • @JBentley That makes some sense. There are legal issues about the validity of such a document, but perhaps this question does not turn on any of them. Sep 11, 2021 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


The DMV technical manual describes a legitimate title, the "most legitimate" being "Complying Pink Title with Blue Border", from 12/03:

The face of the title is pink with a blue border and a white opaque state seal. The reverse side of the title is blue. VOID appears on the title if photocopied. The vehicle history (brand) information is prominently displayed within a red box in the upper right corner of the certificate. The title contains a warning banner printed in the right and left border that reads, “VOID WITHOUT BEAR WATERMARK. HOLD TO LIGHT TO VIEW”. The title contains a custom-repeated pattern of microprinted wording to expose erasures in the odometer statement areas. To expose chemical alterations, reactive agents are incorporated into the paper that produce various stains.

and more recently

Has a prominent strand of polyester security thread embedded into the paper. The thread is repeatedly printed with “State of California” in a forward/backward position in microprinted text. The ISSUE DATE section is printed in red. The VEHICLE HISTORY box, VEHICLE ID NUMBER, PLATE NUMBER, and ODOMETER sections include the words “California Department of Motor Vehicles” in the shaded areas.

There are other types, such as "Noncomplying Rainbow Title" which are still valid. The DMV (theoretically) could tell you, but that could complicate a plan to buy a car without a lot of hassle.

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