Stolen Cars: A New Kind Of Clone War

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When buying a used car, experts say it’s worth remembering the old adage: “If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.”

(NAPSI)—If you’re thinking of buying a used car that looks like a “steal,” take a deep breath before you reach for your wallet. It could be a steal in more ways than one.

That’s because there’s a particular type of auto theft involving used cars that’s called VIN cloning or “car cloning.” This is a lucrative scam where a criminal uses a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally registered car to mask the identity of a stolen car.


Car thieves obtain VINs by simply swiping the plate or the number from vehicles sitting at dealerships or in parking lots. They then use the counterfeit numbers to alter existing ownership documents using the stolen vehicle identity. Or they just forge new documents. All too often, these stolen vehicles end up in the hands of unsuspecting consumers.

Cloned cars are being discovered all over the country. Law enforcement calls it one of the nation’s biggest used car scams. A recent bust turned up more than 1,000 cloned vehicles worth $25 million.

“Scam artists can make off with as much as $30,000 of your hard-earned money and leave you paying off a loan for a car you no longer own,” said Larry Gamache of CARFAX. “What’s worse, you may become part of a criminal investigation as well.”

The best way to make sure your car is legitimate is with thorough research. To help avoid being a victim, follow these steps:

  • Ask the seller to provide the title, service receipts and any other documents for the vehicle. Closely examine each document to make sure the VIN and names all match.
  • Just say “Show Me the CARFAX.” Pay close attention to where and when the vehicle was registered. Registrations in multiple states over a short time should raise a red flag.
  • Check if the mileage readings on all documents are consistent with the current odometer display.
  • Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted, professional mechanic prior to purchase.

You can learn more at

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