Why is VIN cloning a problem?
“What is VIN cloning anyway?”, you may ask. It is when someone steals the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of a legitimately-owned vehicle and slaps it onto a stolen car.
Now more to the matter — why is this a problem? If you buy a cloned vehicle and its true pedigree is discovered, the car will be confiscated, and you’ll still be responsible for any outstanding loans. On the other hand, if your vehicle is the victim of car cloning, you could be accused of a variety of offenses — from parking tickets or cutting somebody off in traffic, to serious criminal activity like organized crime. And you could spend a great deal of time and money trying to prove that it wasn’t you or your car after all.
That’s the big problem with VIN cloning — it leaves several innocent victims in its wake!
How does VIN cloning work?
It begins with a stolen vehicle. Then the vehicle is “cloned” — its manufacturer-installed VIN plate is pried off and replaced with another one. This second VIN plate actually holds a legitimate number that came from a vehicle of a similar make and model in a different state. Other phony ownership documents complete the cloning. At that point it can be easily registered with a motor vehicle agency in another state.
Once the stolen vehicle is registered anew, it can be sold (to both willing and, mostly, unwilling buyers). Needless to say, this entails losses in millions of dollars to consumers, auto insurers, and other victims.
In recent times, there have been progressive changes effected by the government to centralize nationwide DMV information making it increasingly difficult for thieves to sell a stolen car without getting caught. But these felons do not let up and have devised ways to keep up. Consider the following modus operandi.
After stealing a car, criminals would often buy a similar car that has been totaled / scrapped / salvaged for a really good price. Then, they slap the VIN of the salvaged car onto the stolen car before selling the stolen car under the car’s “new identity”. So, if a vehicle history report shows that a car has previously been “scrapped” or “crushed” or severely damaged, it should be a red flag that this might possibly be a stolen car.
How do I protect myself from VIN cloning?
VIN cloning is one of the reasons why the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was created. A Department of Justice database operated by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), it is an electronic system that links State DMVs nationwide and is a major leap in shutting down car cloning activities. If a car is titled in one state, a criminal should not be able to steal its VIN and use it on another vehicle in another state — this database will show a hit indicating that the VIN is already in use.
It would help to consider these to avoid VIN cloning:
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