Car thieves use cloned VINs to steal vehicle identities - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Car thieves use cloned VINs to steal vehicle identities

SPOKANE, Wash. - Think the used car you just bought is really yours? It may have been stolen from someone else.

There's a growing scam that preys on people looking to save money on their next car and it's happening to thousands of people nationwide. 

Car buyers are purchasing used cars that look like great deals but are turning out to be real steals.

Police say the scam starts with the vehicle identification number or VIN stamped in the corner of your car's windshield.

This is your car's identity and thieves are using it to dupe innocent car buyers out of billions of dollars. It's called VIN cloning.

Here's how it works.

The thief steals a vehicle.

Let's say a Chevy Tahoe, but they know when they try to sell it to you it'll come up stolen in the system.

So they go to a public parking lot, find a car that's the same year, make and color then they write down the VIN number and make a fake sticker which makes the stolen vehicle look legit.

There's also another VIN number car scam hitting car owners.

"There's a group in Mexico that is bringing back cars with Mexican paperwork with new VIN numbers and selling them as new or used vehicles when they are stolen vehicles," said Dave Roccaforte of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Investigators say crooks sell you these cars through classified ads in the paper and online.

Sometimes, they even trade the cars in reputable dealerships where they end up for sale.

In just the past several weeks, the FBI busted a major ring recovering more than 1,000 cloned cars, worth more than $25 million.

Here's a secret clue to see if you've bought one.

Look for sloppy errors on the sticker of your drivers door.

On one car, the words "conforms" and "standards" are misspelled; a telltale sign the car is cloned.

If you're about to buy a used car, experts say run it through a service like Carfax to get a complete history, and beware of sellers offering discounts of 50 percent or more.

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