The Friedman Blog

Posted on 04/15/2014, by Jeremy Edsall

Beware of VIN Cloning when Purchasing a Used Luxury Car

You can’t believe your good fortune. You’ve always wanted a luxury vehicle and now you’ve found one at a really great price.  When you go to check out the car the seller explains the he has to let go of it quickly to pay for medical bills, get out of debt, or clear the lot for new inventory.  So you agree to purchase the car and feel good that you got such a good price and helped someone out.

You drive the car for a few days telling everyone of your good fortune at finding such a nice car at a price much lower than its bluebook value.  Then you get the knock on the door.  It’s the police and they have come to inform you that the car your purchased is a stolen car.   You watch as your great new ride is taken away.  When you try to contact the seller to straighten out the situation and arrange to get your money back he is nowhere to be found.

You’ve just been scammed by a practice called VIN cloning.  The car you purchased was stolen, and its VIN number switched with one from a similar vehicle of make and model that thieves may have copied from one they found in a parking lot.  A new “cloned” VIN number plate created and then switched with the one from the stolen car. Supporting documents are created to match the new VIN number.  Sometime s an actual VIN number plate and VIN stickers are taken from a junked vehicle of the same model and switched with the stolen vehicle. 

When it is discovered that there are duplicate VIN numbers, or through insurance claims records it becomes apparent that the registered VIN belongs to a previously totaled vehicle, the police are called in to investigate.  When the VIN numbers are examined it becomes apparent that they have been altered, changed or forged.  That’s when you watch as your car is taken away along with the money you paid for it.

The Better Business Bureau suggests you take the following steps to avoid falling into the trap of buying a vehicle with a cloned VIN number

• Beware of luxury vehicles selling for prices far below market value
• Don’t buy a vehicle from an individual who claims the car must be sold quickly to satisfy financial burdens, or under a “last chance offer”
• Check the VIN number on the dash with the same number found in other locations on the car. These include the driver side door jam and under the hood
• Check all documentation, registration, title and other documents against the dashboard VIN number
• Examine  these documents closely to see if they appear to be forged or altered
• Get a copy of the vehicle history report from a service like CARFAX

When purchasing from a private owner ask them about the history of the car and to provide you with any service records that would indicate having owned the car for an extended period of time.  A red flag would be if they have recently acquired the car, and now have to dispose of it due to a financial or health emergency.

Used car dealers can fall victim to the scam as well. Vehicles with cloned VIN numbers can find their way to dealer vehicle auctions and ultimately to their used car lots.  If you feel you may have been a victim of a VIN cloning scam contact your local police department.

Learn More Here

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