Car cloning on the rise

Devious motorists who turn to car cloning, in a bid to outwit police automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems, are increasingly becoming a menace to law abiding used car owners, warns vehicle history check expert, HPI.

Predominantly, a car is cloned to disguise the identity of a stolen car which is sold on for a quick buck. However, petty criminals are now cloning cars to avoid parking fines and speeding tickets, whilst organised gangs are using them to commit more serious crimes. Increasing numbers of legitimate cars owners are reporting hefty fines they never incurred or have faced unwelcome visits by the police as a result of their vehicle being cloned.

Car cloning is just like personal identity theft but for cars. Criminal gangs mask the true identity of a vehicle by giving it a false Vehicle Registration Number (VRM) often that of a similar make and model car legitimately on the road. Whilst this is causing trouble for the owners of the cars that have been cloned, used car buyers who innocently purchase a stolen vehicle that has been given a false identity, will lose the car and their hard earned money when it’s returned to the legal owner by the police.

Whilst to buy a registration plate in the UK owners must have the vehicle’s log book – otherwise known as a V5 – driver’s licence and proof of address, it is possible to purchase ‘show plates’ on the internet or over the phone with no documentation. Once purchased, there’s nothing to stop show plates being used on the road, albeit fraudulently.

Neil Hodson, managing director for HPI commented, ‘For most victims of car cloning it’s a parking fine from somewhere they have never visited or a speeding ticket issued on a day the car was tucked-up in the garage that raises the alarm. For others, it can be more extreme; it could be the Police turning up at their front door, especially if the car has been used to commit a crime. But for unwitting buyers of a car with an illegitimate identity, the consequences can be financially devastating.’

HPI is urging used car buyers to take some simple but vital steps to avoid being stung by the cloning criminals:

  • Always check the provenance/history of the car you are looking to buy, and make sure you view it at the address shown on the V5/logbook.
  • Check the vehicle’s V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles. The HPI Check includes a unique stolen V5 document check as standard.
  • Ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then conduct a vehicle history check such as the HPI Check to ensure they match DVLA records.
  • Know the car’s market value. If you are paying less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle, then be on your guard. No seller will want to lose money on their sale.
  • Avoid paying in cash, especially if the car costs over £3,000 – use the banking system. HPI continues to hear of many buyers who pay in cash and then find out that the car is a clone, and that they’ve lost both their money and the vehicle.

    Neil Hodson concluded, ‘We advise used car buyers to conduct a vehicle history check to confirm whether their potential dream buy has something to hide. It’s better to be safe than sorry and out of pocket. Crucially the HPI Check includes a Guarantee as standard which provides cover against buying a cloned car, offering buyers financial peace of mind in the event of being outwitted by a criminal.’