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Beware of cloning when buying a car

By raccars Published

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When you are buying a car, how can you be sure it hasn't been cloned?

One of the latest techniques used by car thieves is cloning, which essentially means stealing the identity of another car and applying it to the stolen vehicle to facilitate a sale. The car thieves obscure the stolen vehicle's real Vehicle Identity Number (VIN), apply a stolen or fake licence plate and use a stolen or fake logbook or V5 registration document to give the car a veneer of legitimacy.

A group of thieves was arrested recently for a car cloning scam worth £2 million. Expensive, premium vehicles are the most common targets for the thieves, who use fake number plates, lock picking equipment and a re-programming machine to accomplish the thefts and give the vehicles new identities. When you are buying a used car, there are some steps you can take to ensure you are not buying a cloned vehicle.

Check the paperwork

As always, you should study the paperwork provided by the seller very carefully before you hand over any cash. Check the validity of the registered keeper's name and address as shown on the V5 registration document. Find and check the chassis or VIN numbers on the car and make sure that they match the numbers on the paperwork. You can also contact the DVLA to make sure the details they have for the car match up.

Don't allow your judgement to be clouded by a bargain

You should have already done some research to find out the market value of the cars you are looking at. While a bargain can be very tempting, if a car is being sold far below the usual market price, there is usually a reason.

Don't use cash when buying a car

Cash is hard to trace as a payment method. Any legitimate seller should be happy to accept a bank transfer, banker's draft or some other traceable method of payment and if someone insists on cash you should be wary. Clever cloners will sometimes accept a part payment by banker's draft because there's enough profit for them in the remaining, cash part of the deal, but most fraudulent sellers would refuse a deal that could be traced to them and will only take cash.

RAC Car Passport

There are services which can check a car's history for you, such as the RAC Car Passport.

The RAC Car Passport Buyer's Report offers a complete check on a vehicle's history to identify any alerts for outstanding finance as well as theft reports, write off and scrappage notifications and any discrepancies in the mileage.

The report also gives you common faults found on vehicles by make and model; common reasons for an MOT failure; an independent review by 'What Car?' magazine; a valuation by independent valuation service Glass's; the average running costs applying to the make and model; a car inspection service and a checklist you can use while purchasing.

The RAC Car Passport includes a £30,000 guarantee to cover the data given in the history check. The report can give you peace of mind when buying a car so that you know exactly what you are getting, thereby ensuring you don't find you've been landed with a car which has been cloned.

Do bear in mind that if you buy a cloned car, you will lose your money because the police will return the vehicle to its rightful owner.

The owners of the vehicles the identity of which has been stolen may have no idea that this has occurred until they receive a fine or penalty notice for an offence they did not commit or until they are contacted by the police for supposedly using the car while committing a criminal offence.

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