Car cloning is the vehicular equivalent of identity theft. It involves criminals stealing a car and giving it a new identity copied from a similar make and model vehicle already on the road.
Criminals disguise the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the stolen car and use a stolen V5/logbook to legitimise its identity.
HPI – a company specialising in vehicle history checks – is urging consumers to be aware of these scams, and has put together advice on how to avoid buying a cloned car.
You can lower the risk of buying a cloned vehicle by following HPI’s simple four-step guide:
1. Provenance and history
Always check the provenance/history of the car, and make sure you view it at the registered keeper’s address (as shown on the V5/logbook).
Buyers should ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then use the HPI Check to ensure they tally with the details as recorded with the DVLA.
2. Market value
Know the car’s market value. If you are paying less than 70 percent of the market price for a vehicle, then be on your guard. No seller will want to lose money on their sale. There is rarely such a thing as a bargain, especially if the car later turns out to be a clone.
3. Don’t pay with cash
Don’t pay with cash, particularly if the car is costing you more than £3,000. Some cloners will take a banker’s draft as part-payment, because the cash part is sufficient profit without ever cashing the bankers’ draft.
Most crooks selling cloned cars would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that could be traced back to them.
4. Check the V5/logbook
Check the vehicle’s V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles.
Is the vehicle advertised saying the owner has mislaid or lost the V5 form? Then buyer beware! This is a red light you should check very, very carefully…
Neil Hodson, deputy managing director of HPI, said: “It’s not just premium cars that are at risk from cloning. Every used car buyer needs to be aware of the very real threat of cloning.
“Anyone who buys a clone stands to lose the car and their money, if it’s revealed to be stolen and returned to the rightful owner by the police.”