Buying a Used Car? Look Out for VIN Cloning

While car theft has been a great concern for car owners, it is less of a concern because of the improvement in technologies such as transponder keys, tracking and recovery systems, improved integrated active alarm systems, etc. But while car theft has dropped, car thieves have not given up… and the most common car crime today is VIN switching or VIN cloning.

How VIN Cloning / VIN Switching is Done

  1. Thieves steal your car.
  2. They then look for a model that is the same as yours.
  3. Thieves will make a copy of that vehicle’s VIN.
  4. They will create a fake VIN plate for your car which makes the car easy to sell.

What’s terrible bout this is that you may buy a car thinking it has a clean bill of health. But the real car’s history may be masked.

Worse, the police can seize the car if it was in fact stolen and you’ll likely be out of the money you spent on the car. (Some states like Wisconsin require auto dealerships to reimburse consumers when the dealership has sold a car with a bad VIN but not all states require this.)

Protect yourself from VIN Cloning

Here are some of the things that you can do so that you can protect yourself from VIN cloning and avoid buying used cars that have been stolen.

Check the Address of the Seller

Criminals will not let you know their address. If you are the buyer, always go to the seller and meet at his or her house. If he says that he is a motor dealer, go to his place of business. A legal trader will not have a problem with you visiting his business site. He will also have printed invoices and a legit landline number.

If the seller asks to meet at a convenient location, make sure to bring a friend.

Right to Sell

Buying from a private individual is riskier than buying from a car dealer because when things go wrong, you might not be able to find the seller if he or she is just a private individual.

To see if the seller has the right to sell, meet at the address indicated on the registration papers. Go into the house and don’t just meet outside the house. If the person has nothing to hide, then there should be no problem getting inside the house. If you find something unusual, walk away right at that very moment.

Question Low Prices

Be wary of cars that are being sold at an insanely low price. If there is some bodywork damage in the car, then the seller might go a bit lower. However, if the seller is willing to accept any price, then alarm bells must sound off because a car thief will settle for any amount instead of getting caught with a stolen car.

Check the Documents

Inspect each and every document that will be handed to you. Try to spot any forgeries. Check the VIN on all the records, the door sticker, dash, car frame, service and title records. All of the VIN indicated there must match. Check for any signs that it may have been tampered with.

Check the CARFAX if there are any clone alerts.

The odometer must match the mileage that is reported on the document. Check if there are any registrations between states. If there are, then this is a cause for alarm as this might be a stolen car.

Get a Mechanic

You can always get an expert mechanic to check on the car if there are any anomalies.