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Car Cloning - Late Modeled Used Cars Special Targets

Updated on March 7, 2019
Jen's Solitude profile image

From my first successful eBay vehicle purchase until the present time, I have researched how to find the best deals on used cars.

2005 Pick-up confiscated by police. Cloning is not limited to cars.
2005 Pick-up confiscated by police. Cloning is not limited to cars.

FBI Warning: Car Cloning is Out of Hand

According to the FBI, car cloning is increasing. We, the consumer, must protect ourselves by understanding this latest SCAM and acting accordingly.

The FBI believes car cloning is preventable if every state's motor vehicle department is linked to one another electronically. That way you couldn't register a car in Maryland, using a VIN from a car in Virginia. The system wouldn't allow it. The FBI is on a crusade working with the AAMVA to get all 50 states to participate.

What follows is a brief explanation of how cloning works; how to protect ourselves and the links available to get more detailed information.

Explaining the Scam

Car cloners count on the fact that these tough economic times necessitate the desire to find a good deal, when looking to purchase a vehicle.

Many consumers have dropped down from buying NEW vehicles to buying slightly used upper-end cars, SUV's or trucks.

This is when the scam begins.

A vehicle is stolen

  • The original VIN (vehicle identification number) is pried off
  • The thief replaces the pried off VIN with the VIN from a vehicle of similar make and model from a different state
  • Other vehicle documentation is phonied up. (Title, registration and license plates)
  • Stolen car is registered with MVA (motor vehicle agency) in another state.
  • Cloned car is sold to unsuspecting buyer

In some cases, a slightly different scenario occurs. A car can be stolen from the mall, thieves head for a neighboring State. They seek out a large car dealership looking for a car that is the exact make and model and color of the stolen car. They jot down the VIN stamped on the dashboard and drive off. Later they make an exact replica, pull off the old tag and pop in the new one. A clone is born, two identical cars, one identification number.

Why the Scam is So Successful

It would be much more difficult for thieves and swindlers to pull off their scam if a all 50 states participated in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

Effective Jan 1, 2010

Currently, only 37 states participate or are in the process of participating. Mandatory participation will take place on Jan 1, 2010 after which the ability to identify cloned vehicles BEFORE title issuance, will exist..

Additional Agency Help Needed

Even with full compliance by all 50 states, a more detailed process involving individual State motor vehicle agencies must also be implemented. At this time there are too many discrepancies between records kept from State to State. The FBI is hoping these gaps will be closed in the near future.

Until that occurs, consider accessing the ACTUAL State title record, before making a purchase.

You must locate your State's individual information, which can be found at your AAMVA site. Each State can require meeting different criteria to get the title information.

Beware of False Negatives

Guard against feeling a sense of security because you have checked out one site or agency.

By involving both the Federal and State agencies, it is easier to weed out "false negatives" - when the car's history comes back seemingly clear of problems in one state or jurisdiction, but has alert points in another state or jurisdiction.

Once a standardized reporting system exists and is shared from state to state, this scam will be much harder to pull off.

  • If a car is stolen, all States will have the same report.
  • If a car is damaged in a flood, it will be discovered.
  • Even junkyards, insurance companies and salvage yards will be required to report vehicles, as of March 31, 2009

Success Stories

Some states have already reported a cut in the amount of "cloned VINs" which proves governmental intervention can make a difference.

By going after the cloning rings, which are huge in size, success is being seen in states like Florida, where the cloning rings are very successful.

A NMVTIS Provider

Two links are provided to help in title search information.

Consequences for Buyers of Cloned Vehicles

The victims of cloned vehicles suffer greatly.

First, their vehicle is confiscated and the buyer will not be compensated for their loss.

The unwitting buyer can also be accused of offenses such as parking violations and unpaid tickets on such things such as cutting someone off in traffic.

In extreme situations, even organized crime charges have been filed.

The owner of a cloned car must therefore spend a lot of money trying to prove his innocence.

Victims also include the unwitting buyer of the cloned vehicle as well as the banks financing the cloned car.

Tips From Various Sources

So in review, apply these tips before purchasing your next used vehicle:

  • Purchase your used car from a reputable dealer
  • Use sites like to verify blue book, wholesale and retail costs of vehicles
  • Insist on copy of car's vehicle history report
  • Compare mileage with repair records and odometer reading
  • Check the VIN with state MVA
  • Do a title search with a private company
  • Analyze ownership pattern for any new or late model vehicle with no lien owner
  • Beware of someone anxious to deal in cash, pressuring you to get the money right away.
  • Be prepared to walk away when a deals sounds too good
  • Trust your instincts


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