Motor Vehicle Fraud Protection
Important Consumer Advice about Vehicle Cloning
Enterprising criminals continue to invent new scams to defraud vehicle insurers, owners, and prospective owners. One innovative vehicle theft scheme involves copying a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally owned and titled vehicle sitting in a public place such as a parking lot or vehicle dealership. The VIN is then used as the basis to create a counterfeit VIN tag.
The next step in the cloning process is to steal a vehicle similar to the one from which the criminal lifted the legitimate VIN. The stolen vehicle’s legitimate VIN tag is replaced with counterfeit one. With this counterfeit tag, the stolen vehicle is now a “clone” of the original vehicle that was legally owned and innocently parked.
To complete the scenario, criminals will create counterfeit ownership documents for the cloned vehicle or obtain the ownership documentation under false pretenses. They use this phony documentation to sell the stolen vehicle to an innocent purchaser. With the counterfeit VIN tag, the stolen vehicle can easily be sold without detection by government agencies.
Vehicle cloning is a highly lucrative crime. Car thieves often travel across state and international borders to sell cloned vehicles.
The potential impact to the purchaser of stolen/cloned vehicle is significant. If you buy a cloned vehicle and its true pedigree is discovered, the car will be confiscated, and you will still be responsible for any outstanding loans.
Similarly, if the VIN from the vehicle you own has been copied and your vehicle has been cloned, you could be accused of a variety of civil or criminal offenses. As a result, you could spend a great deal of time and money trying to prove that it wasn’t you or your vehicle after all.
Consumer Protection Tips:
The United States Department of Justice is in the process of developing and completing an electronic database that links state motor vehicle departments together. Florida is already participating in this effort along with 37 other states, and all 50 states are required to participate by 2010. Once fully operational, this system should help deter car cloning activities by ensuring that once a vehicle is titled in one state, a vehicle with the same VIN number cannot be similarly titled in another state.
Additional tips for prospective vehicle purchasers from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suggest that to avoid purchasing a cloned vehicle, the purchaser should:
Verify the vehicle VIN through the Department’s Motor Vehicle Check website to verify ownership and vehicle description information.
Analyze the ownership pattern for any new or late model vehicle with no lien holder.
Be careful about purchasing a used vehicle from an individual running a newspaper ad and using a cell phone number
Get a copy of the vehicle’s history report.
If possible, have your insurer inspect the vehicle prior to purchase.
Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away! If you’re car shopping, beware of a car being sold for substantially less than comparable makes and models.
Check out the VIN plate on the dashboard for any evidence of tampering (scratches, etc.).
Look for incorrect spellings on paperwork, like vehicle titles.
For Additional Assistance:
If you have reason to believe that your car was cloned, contact your local law enforcement or file a complaint with the local DMV Regional Office by using the Complaint Affidavit located on the department’s website. For a complete list of DMV Regional Offices around the state, click here.
For more information concerning cloned vehicles and other insurance related, please see the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website.