Car buyers in danger of buying a cloned car should do their research on the car's history
Criminals are now cloning cars to avoid parking fines and speeding tickets while organised gangs are using cloned vehicles to commit serious crimes.
According to vehicle history check expert, HPI, increasing numbers of legitimate car owners are reporting large fines and facing visits from police for crimes they didn't commit.
HPI warns devious motorists who turn to car cloning, in a bid to outwit police automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems, are increasingly becoming a menace to law abiding used-car owners.
Cars are predominantly cloned to disguise the identity of a stolen car which is sold on for a quick buck.
Essentially identity theft for cars, criminals mask the true identity of a vehicle by giving it a false Vehicle Registration Number (VRM) which is often that of a similar make and model car legitimately on the road.
While this is causing trouble for owners of the cars that have been cloned, used car buyers who innocently purchase a stolen vehicle with a false identity, will lose the car when it's returned to the legal owner by the police.
In the UK, owners must have the vehicle's log book to buy a registration plate - also known as a V5 - driving licence and proof of address.
However it's possible to purchase 'show plates' on the internet or over the phone with no documentation. Once purchased, theres nothing to stop show plates being used on the road, albeit fraudulently.
Neil Hodson, managing director for HPI, said: "For most victims of car cloning it's a parking fine from somewhere they have never visited or a speeding ticket issued on a day the car was tucked-up in the garage that raises the alarm. For others, it can be more extreme; it could be the police turning up at their front door, especially if the car has been used to commit a crime.
"But for unwitting buyers of a car with an illegitimate identity, the consequences can be financially devastating."
HPI suggests taking the following steps to avoid falling victim:
1. Always check the history of the car you are looking to buy and make sure you view it at the address shown on the V5/logbook
2. Check the vehicle's V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles
3. Ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then conduct a vehicle history check to ensure they match DVLA records
4. 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
5. Avoid paying in cash, especially if the car costs over £3,000 - use the banking system.