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If you are in the market for a car, but need to save money, the typical choice is to look for a used model. While there are many reputable used car dealers who will sell you a good used car at a reasonable price, be cautious when dealing with individual sellers or online marketplaces. A problem may arise if you don’t personally know the seller or buy from a well-established car dealer.

The problem: The car might be stolen and disguised as another car using a process called VIN cloning.

With over 700,000 stolen cars each year, VIN cloning has become a profitable enterprise for car thieves. In this scheme, to avoid police, the VIN number on the stolen car is replaced with that of a car that has not been stolen. Bogus paperwork with the false VIN number may also accompany the car. Once sold, if it is later repossessed by the police as a stolen car, the purchaser ends up without a car and no way to get their money back. The best defense against this scam is to do your homework before purchasing by getting a detailed vehicle history to look for discrepancies and lapses in documentation.

Tips to Avoid VIN Cloning:

  1. Be extremely cautious if you see a late-model luxury car or SUV selling significantly under normal market price.
  2. Do not fall for the “we need cash quickly” excuse; exercise due diligence.
  3. Check the VIN number on the dashboard, inside the door jamb and under the hood against the car’s title documents for discrepancies.
  4. Closely examine the car’s title, registration and other documents. Fake documents sometimes contain misspelled words.
  5. If you still have questions about the validity of the vehicle’s VIN, obtain a comprehensive vehicle history report.
  6. If you believe your car has been cloned contact your local law enforcement.


For more information on VIN Cloning, got to VIN Check – Protect Yourself from VIN Fraud and VIN Cloning: How Thieves Can Steal Your Car’s Identity.

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