Car thieves have advanced significantly from busting windows and hot-wiring. In today's article, we are discussing a more sophisticated way professional car thieves are stealing cars and covering their tracks: VIN Cloning. No, it's not the latest sci-fi movie, but a real-life epidemic that is resulting in misery for victims here in New York and around the country.
VIN Cloning is not about reproducing actual cars, but stealing VIN numbers. The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is the unique 17 digit number assigned to each car by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is used like a social security number to track the car's history throughout its life. You probably have discovered that a valid VIN is needed to sell your automobile, register it at the DMV, or buy auto insurance.
A VIN swindler steals a car and masks it under a legitimate VIN number from a similar make and model in order to hide under the radar. With a seemingly valid VIN, the car can be transported across state lines, registered, and resold with all the documents in order.
Imagine how problematic it would be if swindlers were to copy your plates and VIN number and attach them to a recently lifted vehicle. Though the scheme may go undetected for years, eventually there would be numerous victims: the car owner whose VIN was duplicated (you), the used car dealer who buys the stolen vehicle, the insurer, and the buyer who unwittingly purchases the vehicle with your car's VIN.
If you unknowingly purchase a taken car with a replicated VIN and forged title paperwork, the automobile could be seized and you could end up losing thousands of dollars. Here are some VIN fraud protection tips from the FBI:1
- If you’re car shopping, beware of low prices that seem too good to be true.
- Get a copy of the car’s history report.
- Carefully inspect the VIN plate on the dashboard for any scratches or other indications of tampering.
- Make sure the VINs in the car and on the corresponding paperwork match: the driver’s side door label, car frame, dashboard, and title credentials.
- Look for incorrect spellings on paperwork.
Smart used car buyers not only protect against VIN fraud, they make sure the vehicle they buy is mechanically sound. If you are shopping for a used car, bring it into I-86 Truck & Auto Repair, for a thorough inspection. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.