Cloned cars

The four-step guide to avoid buying a cloned car

Cloned cars

As six fraudsters are arrested for their part in a cloning scam worth a staggering £2million, HPI issues a four-step guide to avoid buying a cloned car.

Car cloning is the vehicular equivalent of identity theft and involves criminals stealing a car and giving it a new identity copied from a similar make and model vehicle already on the road. The 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, with the advice coming in the light of arrests in Leeds, Bradford and Bournemouth, in connection with the theft and cloning of 180 vehicles. Several high-value cars and number plates were recovered, as well as a lock-picking kit and a machine used to reprogram vehicles.

You can lower the risk of buying a cloned vehicle by following HPI’s simple four-step guide, which includes:

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% 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.

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.”


Speaking about the raids in Yorkshire and Bournemouth, detective superintendent Pat Twiggs of West Yorkshire Police, said: The operation is focused on vehicles being stolen, primarily in the south of England, without keys, using specialist equipment and then transported to Leeds where they are professionally cloned using the identities of legitimate vehicles and sold to innocent buyers through used car publications and websites.”

West Yorkshire Police said the ring had been operating since 2009.

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