CNN.com reports the troubling story of the “FBI breaking up one of the largest auto theft cases in the U.S. The suspects were accused of ‘cloning’ vehicles, which is making stolen cars look like legal ones. The FBI says that the ring was operating in the U.S. for more than 20 years. More than 1,000 vehicles were stolen in Florida, with more than $25 million in losses to consumers and banks.” Basically, the thieves copied vehicle identification numbers (known as VINs) off legitimate cars and put them on identical stolen cars.
In my article on inspecting a used car I tell folks to match the vehicle identification number on the registration with the one on the car to make sure everything matches. Well, as this car ring proved, even that may not be enough.
So, if you’re buying a used car from a private seller or a dealer who makes you nervous, have your mechanic confirm the vehicle identification numbers when doing the inspection. Lots of makes and models have the VIN also etched on their transmission or engine. That makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for thieves to steal vehicle identification numbers like they did in this case.
On its website, the FBI advises getting a vehicle history report on any used car you are purchasing, as well as offering this great piece of advice: “Trust your intuition—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”