Avoid These Common Used Car Scams: VIN Cloning
When someone really wants to hide a vehicle’s history, they may go so far as to put a different vehicle identification number (VIN) on a used car. They’re either trying to cover up the fact that the car has serious problems that haven’t been properly addressed or, as is more often the case, are trying to conceal the fact that it’s a stolen car.
More than 700,000 cars are stolen every year. Many of them are “chopped” up to sell the parts, but some of them also end up being sold, but to do that, the sellers need to come up with a new VIN that doesn’t show the car as stolen. They basically create a fake VIN sticker to cover up the true one. They’ll just write down a VIN from a similar car and use it.
If you buy a used car and it comes to light that the VIN is fake and car was stolen, the police will confiscate the vehicle, in which case you might be completely out of luck. If you bought it from a dealer, you may be able to get a full refund, depending on the state laws where you live. But if it was a private party transaction, you’re left with no car and no refund. And if you took out a loan, you’ll still have to pay it.
This particular fraud causes headaches for more than just the purchaser of a stolen car. It also causes headaches for car owners whose VINs have been used for that purpose. If you go to sell or trade your car they run a history report, there’s no telling what crazy history will show up that’s tied to your VIN which has been attached to your car and a wrong car.
Here’s how to protect yourself from VIN cloning:
Ask to see the title. The VIN on the title should match the VIN in the vehicle, unless of course the title has been doctored, which is also a possibility.
Double-check all paperwork. While you’re at it, double-check the seller’s name and the VIN on all paperwork, including registration, insurance, and so on.
VIN matching. Besides the little plate on the dash that has the VIN on it, there should also be a driver’s side door sticker that lists the VIN. In addition, some manufacturers stamp the VIN on various parts of the car, including the frame, so try to find one of those as well. Obvisouly, they should all be the same!
Be sensible. If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a hundred times – if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Also be aware that there’s going to some kind of backstory developed to convince you this is legitimate. A private party seller might say that his family is facing large medical bills or has racked up a lot of credit card debt and needs fast cash, anything to make you believe that the seller is in a bind that is forcing them to sell the car at such a great price.
These are other common used car scams you should know about: