£1 million cloned car ring smashed – but beware of others

Manchester police have recovered £570,000-worth of stolen cars from a ring that was cloning stolen cars to make them appear legitimate. Car cloning is the vehicle equivalent of identity fraud – criminals steal a car and give it a new identity copied from a similar vehicle already on the road. This gang would steal cars and clone them to make them look legitimate. The cars were given new number plates and the registration number was used to list the vehicles for sale. The gang also used stolen V5 documents, stolen road tax discs, fraudulent MOT certificates and receipts and faked vehicle history check documents. They also used the personal details of innocent people to help create a fake history for the vehicles, making the scam very hard to spot.

When car criminals are this sophisticated, it can be really difficult not to fall victim to their methods. However, the car check people, HPI recommend four steps to reduce the risk of falling into the cloned car trap:One… Always check the provenance/history of the car, and make sure you view it at the registered keepers address (as shown on the V5/logbook). Buyers should ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other. Naturally they recommend using the HPI Check to ensure they tally with the details as recorded with the DVLA –but HPI are the leading organisation for checking vehicle details, so it is a fair comment.Two… Know the car’s market value. If you are paying less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle, then be on your guard. In one case a buyer paid £11,000 cash for a vehicle HPI valued at £21,000. There is rarely such a thing as a bargain and in this case the car was later proven to be a clone.

Three… Don’t pay with a substantial amount of cash, particularly if the car is costing you more than £3,000. Some cloners will take a bankers draft as part payment, because the cash part is sufficient profit without ever cashing the bankers draft. Despite strong advice to buyers to pay via the banking system, HPI still hears of many buyers who go on to pay in cash and subsequently find out that the car is a clone, and that they’ve lost both their money and the vehicle.

Four… Check the vehicle’s V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles, despite the new issue of the updated red and blue V5 document. The HPI Check includes a unique stolen V5 document check as standard.