EDMONTON – Buyers are being warned to be aware of vehicle clones, which are stolen cars that are being masked as legitimate vehicles for sale.
The warning comes from Edmonton police who said thieves are using a vehicle identification number from a legally registered car to hide the identity of a stolen or salvaged vehicle, which is usually the same make, model and year.
Thieves then use the stolen VINs to create documents to register or sell the stolen car, police say. The stolen vehicle becomes an identical clone of the legitimate vehicle with no obvious signs it was stolen.
Police compared car cloning to personal identity theft.
“Each VIN is unique like a fingerprint, but if it can be cloned successfully, the result is two or more vehicles with the same VIN,” Det. Dan Duiker said.
VINs are stamped into metal or plastic plates, or printed on tamper-proof decals, which are visible on the driver’s side of the dashboard below the windshield and on the driver’s side door frame, police explained. A typical thief will alter or reattach a VIN, which could indicate it’s been interfered with.
However, criminal groups use more sophisticated methods to clone vehicles in chop shop garages.
Police have 10 suggestions to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim:
- Examine the public VIN plate
- Ask for proof of ownership and identification from the seller.
- Check the VIN on the Canadian Police Information Centre public website.
- Consider online services like CARFAX or CARPROOF
- Google the VIN.
- Have a Vehicle Information Report done at an Alberta registry office.
- Bring a friend.
- Question low sale prices.
- Keep detailed records of the purchase.
- Use common sense and good judgement. Don’t allow your desire to buy the vehicle override your intuition.
Edmonton police investigate one or two reports of cloned vehicles every week, which often leads to the discovery of other cloned vehicles, police said.
Thieves can make $10,000 to $50,000 in profit for each vehicle sold. The criminals will put pressure on a potential victim to buy quickly before they can do their due diligence, according to police.