Fraudsters have found yet another way to take advantage of unsuspecting used car buyers

Stolen Vehicle Clones

Used Cars and Stolen Vehicle Clones

It has come to our attention that, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there is yet another scam that used car buyers need to be aware of. It’s called vehicle cloning and the NICB related a recent incident involving this very practice:

An innocent woman in Lancaster, Wisc. bought a used GMC Denali for $30,000 and for the last two years she has been enjoying its use. Meanwhile, Carfax notified NICB that the Denali might be a "clone" since Carfax had information that an identical Denali was currently registered in Peabody, Mass.

Investigation by NICB quickly revealed that the vehicle in Peabody was the legitimate vehicle and that the one in Lancaster was most likely a stolen vehicle. The vehicle owner in Lancaster was contacted and agreed to bring her Denali to the police department for an inspection. NICB senior special agent Larry Burzynski confirmed that it was a stolen vehicle taken from Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2007.

Fortunately for the unsuspecting buyer, Wisconsin law requires all new and used car dealers to be licensed and bonded. This means that if a law enforcement agency, such as a police or sheriff’s department, confiscates a motor vehicle from an owner, the selling dealer must make the buyer "whole" again, meaning the vehicle owner cannot suffer any financial loss from the transaction.

The problem is that in most other states, a situation like this could result in the buyer losing their entire investment in the vehicle.

To help prevent something like this from happening, the NICB offers the following tips:

  • Check the VIN with the department of motor vehicles
  • Use NICB's free VINCheck service
  • Be careful when purchasing a used vehicle from someone advertising it online or in the newspaper
  • Have a private company conduct a vehicle history report
  • Trust your instincts. If a used vehicle deal sounds too good to be true....walk away

The Bottom Line

Through vehicle cloning, used car fraudsters have found yet another way to separate unwary buyers from their hard-earned cash. This trap can be avoided by following the tips supplied by the NICB and also remembering that "if a used car deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is."