Tips for Consumers: VIN Cloning Swindles Luxury Car Buyers
Tips for Consumers
VIN Cloning Swindles Luxury Car Buyers
You see a classified ad for a late model luxury used car-a BMW, Lexus, Porsche or Cadillac CTS. But the price advertised seems too low-thousands of dollars under what you expect to pay. When you call the seller, he says that his family has large medical bills or credit card debt and he needs cash quickly. Do you want the car?
You jump at the bargain, meet to inspect the car, transfer the titles at the state motor vehicle office and pay him the cash. He disappears with your $20,000 (or more) and you enjoy driving your beautiful luxury car for a few days-until the police knock on your door and inform you that the car you are driving is stolen!
Like possible other consumers in the Hagerstown area, you are the latest victim of a growing scam called vehicle identification number cloning.
VIN cloners take the unique identification number from a vehicle, which may be found on the dashboard, driver's side door jam, rear-wheel well or engine-and use it to forge documents for similar, stolen vehicles. State motor vehicle offices require a VIUN to register a vehicle, and the numbers also are recorded on a car or truck's title. Carfax estimates that more than 225,000 of the 1.5 million vehicles stolen each year are given cloned VINs. They estimate VIN cloning has cost consumers and insurance companies $4 billion over the last decade.
VIN cloners typically steal VINs from luxury vehicles that command a higher price in the used-car market. The numbers can be stolen by snooping around a vehicle, through eBay, (which requires sellers to post VINs), or many other ways. Like identity theft, the crooks don't take the car, just the number. Once they have a legitimate paperwork using the cloned VIN. The last step is selling the vehicle, usually through classified ads or other informal methods. VIN cloners often prey on middle-income consumers who are thrilled to get a great deal on an expensive vehicle.
Experts say that if you see a late model luxury car selling significantly under normal market price and you get the "we need cash quickly" story, beware! You could lose the "bargain" and your cash at the same time. They suggest you (sadly) just walk away.
Always contact the BBB to check out legitimate businesses. Visit our web site, www.baltimore.bbb.org or give us a call 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992. If you have a complaint, use our web site or write us at BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Our office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.