Don’t be conned by used car clones

Leading vehicle information expert, HPI is warning used car buyers of the dangers of car cloning. Fraudsters use car cloning to hide the identity of a stolen vehicle to sell it on to an unsuspecting buyer. As one HPI customer recently found out, the HPI Check offers protection against falling victim to a cloned vehicle.

Used car buyer, William Deane*, almost got more than he bargained for when looking for a used car on behalf of his sister. William spotted a VW Golf on Auto Trader at a bargain price. Despite his doubts about the low price tag, he decided to view the vehicle. When William went to meet the seller, he felt the seller was acting suspiciously. In addition, the V5 document didn’t look right, so William decided to check the car with HPI.

The HPI Check revealed that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for the vehicle did not match the VIN that was on the V5 document. Furthermore, HPI revealed that the V5 document was part of a batch stolen from the DVLA in 2006. This meant that the car was most likely a stolen vehicle, which the seller was trying to pass off as another car – a trick called cloning.

“William was right to be suspicious of the low price and the V5 book, but too many used car buyers miss these vital warning signs,” advises Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI. “It’s easy to be duped by a bargain price and shiny paintwork, but that’s how buyers fall into the fraudster’s trap. Consumers must conduct simple checks to protect themselves, and reduce the risk of buying a clone.

“The economic downturn means car thieves are using any trick they can to cheat buyers out of their hard earned cash. Anyone buying a clone stands to lose the car and the money they paid for it, and if the vehicle is revealed as stolen, it will be returned to its rightful owner. But an HPI Check will help buyers like William to make the right decision, protecting them and their money.”

Following the advice from HPI, William decided to walk away. He says, “I like to think of myself as having a pretty good knowledge of cars, but this was the first I had heard of car cloning. The seller behaving oddly made me feel pretty nervous, so I thought it wise to check out the history of the car before the sale went any further.

“Given the car was for my sister, I felt particularly responsible for making sure everything was above board. The HPI Check report saved us from buying a potentially stolen car which she could have lost at any time. I would recommend anyone buying a used car to check it out with HPI beforehand. Not only do you get the history of a vehicle, but they are also on hand to provide invaluable advice after you conduct an HPI Check – alerting you to scams like this.”

As well as confirming whether the car is registered as stolen, has been written-off, or is on finance, the HPI Check also protects buyers with the HPI Guarantee(3). This provides up to £30,000 financial reimbursement in the event of the car not being everything it seems – including a clone.

Nicola concludes, “William had a lucky escape, but every day we see consumers falling foul of fraudsters. HPI uncovers more than 28 stolen vehicles every day and many of those could be clones masquerading as legitimate vehicles. We urge buyers to follow four simple rules to help them reduce the danger of falling into the cloned car trap.”

Cloning Checklist

One… Always check the provenance/history of the car, and make sure you view it at the address shown on the V5/logbook. Ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then use the HPI Check to ensure they match DVLA records.

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. No seller will want to lose money on their sale.

Three… Don’t pay with large amounts of cash, especially if the car costs over £3,000 – use the banking system. HPI still hears of many buyers who pay in cash and then 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. The HPI Check includes a unique stolen V5 document check as standard.

If buyers are concerned that they may have purchase a cloned vehicle, they should call HPI for further advice on 0845 300 8905.

* not his real name

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