HPI helps police smash £1 million used car cloning gang
Vehicle information expert, HPI, has played a key role in helping Greater Manchester Police (GMP) smash a highly organised criminal gang who stole vehicles to order and sold them on to unsuspecting buyers. The successful police operation resulted in two arrests and recovered over £570,000 worth of stolen vehicles. The gang used ‘cloned’ identities to make stolen vehicles look legitimate before selling them via market places, such as Auto Trader. HPI reminds consumers that the HPI Check is the only service to include a guarantee against the risk of fraud, including cloning.
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. GMP discovered that the 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 dodgy 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, HPI offers four simple, but highly effective rules consumers should apply when buying privately, which could radically 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 and then use the HPI Check to ensure they tally with the details as recorded with the DVLA.
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. In one case an HPI customer 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. Most crooks selling cloned cars would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that could be traced back to them. 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. As an added security measure, the HPI Check continues to include a unique stolen V5 document check as standard. This will confirm whether or not the document is one that the DVLA have recorded as stolen.
“This gang was using every trick in the book to dupe innocent used car buyers, but HPI joined forces with Greater Manchester Police and a number of other industry names to catch the criminals red-handed,” explains Kristian Welch, Consumer Director for HPI. “This case highlights the risks consumers face. Many buyers don’t realise that if they buy a clone they stand to lose the car and their money, as a stolen vehicle will be returned to its rightful owner. But an HPI Check offers used car buyers the protection they need from fraudsters. We advise people to “check with HPI before they buy”, allowing them to walk away from a vehicle with a dodgy history. If any of our customers had fallen victim to this gang, but had completed all the checks we had asked them to do, we would have protected them with our clone guarantee.”
As well as confirming whether the car is recorded as stolen, has been written-off, or is on finance, the HPI Check also protects buyers with the HPI Guarantee. This provides up to £30,000 financial reimbursement in the event of the car not being everything it seems – including a clone. If buyers are concerned that they may purchase a cloned vehicle, they should call HPI for further advice on 0845 300 8905.