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VIN Cloning Scams on the Rise - Get a VIN Check!


A used car deal that seems too good to be true usually is. A growing number of these “deals” turn out to be part of a scam involving stolen vehicles and thousands of dollars. That's why it's so important to perform a thorough VIN check before buying used cars. The scam – known as “VIN cloning” or “car cloning” – involves using a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally registered car to mask the identity of a stolen car. Unfortunately, these stolen vehicles often are sold to unsuspecting car buyers.

The FBI recently broke up one of the largest car theft rings in the country. Car thieves in Florida, Illinois and Mexico cloned more than 1,000 vehicles worth $25 million. Unfortunately, anyone who bought these cloned cars will have the car taken away and still be responsible to pay off the loan.

“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, communications director at CARFAX. “What's worse, you may become part of a criminal investigation as well.”

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 swiped VINs to alter ownership documents, or they may forge new documents altogether to hide the stolen car's identity.

The best way to make sure your car is legitimate is with thorough research and a VIN lookup. A vehicle history report, such as those offered by CARFAX, is part of the solution to help car buyers avoid becoming victims.

Consumers are advised to follow these steps to help identify a potential clone:

  • Make sure the VIN on the dashboard, the driver's side door sticker, the car's frame and on paperwork (title documents, service records, etc.) all match.
  • Check the CARFAX® Vehicle History Report™
    • Look for a clone alert.
    • Make sure the current odometer display is consistent with the reported mileage.
    • Be aware of multiple registrations in different states over a short period of time.
  • Have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic prior to purchase.