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Car Buyers Beware: Sheep Aren't the Only Ones Being Cloned

Vehicle Identification Cloning Makes Stealing Your Car Easy

Every minute in the United States approximately four cars are stolen from their rightful owners. When tracking the whereabouts of these vehicles, auto crime theft units have happened upon a relatively new form of identity theft, known as "VIN Cloning" -- a scam that involves using a vehicle identification number (VIN) from one legally owned vehicle and duplicating it in order to sell a similar, though stolen car or truck.

High-end luxury cars are the usual targets of this kind of theft. Escalades, Lexus RX 300s, Z4s and BMW 5 Series are among the models most widely reported by local detectives. According to Carfax, more than 225,000 of the 1.5 million vehicles stolen each year are illegally given VIN numbers of other vehicles. VIN cloning car thieves can make an $18,000 to $30,000 profit per vehicle.

Tracking down a cloned vehicle can be difficult as car cloners often cross state lines when selling clones, in order to circumvent state DMV systems. New York and New Jersey are among the hot spots for VIN cloning, but many of these 'cloned' or tagged vehicles are uncovered by detectives in areas like Western Michigan, Southern California and Miami.

"VIN Cloning is truly a 'Buyer Beware' situation," commented Marianne McInerney, president of AIADA. "A good rule of thumb: If a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is."

"Fortunately, there are things to look out for," said McInerney. "In addition to obtaining a Carfax Vehicle History Report, car buyers should check the vehicle's VIN with their state bureau of motor vehicles and carefully scrutinize the ownership pattern of any vehicle with no lien holder. Dealers should also be watching for cloners who may try to steal VINs from vehicles on their lots."

In addition to using VIN numbers from legitimate vehicles here in the states, Carfax found that more than 600,000 of the more than 4.2 million vehicles exported from the U.S. over the last ten years had activity records in the U.S. after the exportation date, when they should no longer show any activity. This, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, resulted in an estimated $4 billion in fraud costs for consumers and insurance companies.

"While this type of racketeering generally occurs away from the dealership lot, dealers can also be scammed," added McInerney. "If an unaware dealer purchases a VIN cloned vehicle, he or she could be responsible for thousands of dollars in repo charges after the police track it down as a stolen vehicle."

CARFAX is AIADA's exclusive provider of vehicle history information on pre-owned cars and trucks. Carfax has provided its services to AIADA members for the past three years. For more than 18 years, CARFAX has been the number one source of vehicle history information for thousands of auto dealers across the U.S.

AIADA represents the 11,000 American automobile dealerships that sell and service international nameplate brands Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Lexus, Maserati, Maybach, Mazda, Mercedes, MINI, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Saab, Scion, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Visit AIADA online at

(Source: AIADA)