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Don't be fooled by a car clone

9th June 2010 Print

Vehicle data expert HPI played a key role in helping Lancashire Police's Stolen Vehicle Squad arrest a gang of vehicle thieves, operating in Preston. Together, the gang stole and cloned 16 vehicles valued at £153,000, using stolen V5 log books and then advertising them in Autotrader. The police were able to recover all the vehicles, although innocent members of the public were still conned out of £62,000. The gang could have been stopped in its tracks earlier if those buyers had conducted an HPI Check, which includes the HPI Guarantee of £30,000.

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. The criminal will disguise the unique 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the stolen car, as well as using a stolen V5/logbook to try to legitimise its identity.

When an unsuspecting buyer saw a Vivaro van for sale in Autotrader for £7,000, it seemed like a good deal. He went to a supermarket car park to inspect the vehicle and bought it. However, once he got home he noticed the tax disc looked like it had been tampered with, so he called the police. The car was confirmed as stolen and cloned. The buyer lost the van, which had to be returned to its owner and the money he'd paid for it, making him one of many victims of this gang of cloners.

The gang operated all over the North West, stealing vehicles using their keys, taken during burglaries. Then they used the details of legitimate vehicles to forge V5 registration documents using blank logbooks stolen from the DVLA. Working with police in an investigation called Operation Flycatcher, HPI helped the Police secure the successful arrest and sentencing of five gang members.

“This case proves that many used car buyers are still falling foul of cloned vehicles,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI. “As the recession takes its toll on the UK, criminals are using more sophisticated methods to clone vehicles and car buyers are repeatedly falling foul of these fraudsters. Used car buyers may be unaware of the risks or maybe they are dazzled by a rock bottom price on their dream vehicle, which plays right into the hands of the cloners.

“There are several simple steps used car buyers can take to protect themselves from the risk of clones. HPI continues to raise awareness of the risks of used car buying by urging consumers to conduct a vehicle history check and proceed with caution. An HPI Check can help buyers uncover a fake and walk away.”

As well as revealing 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.  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 or visit

HPI’s Tips to Avoid Buying a Clone

Always view a vehicle at the registered keeper's address, never in a car park or lay by

Use the HPI Check to ensure that the VIN/chassis numbers match the registration number of the vehicle

Know the vehicle's market value. If you are paying 30% under the market value then be on your guard - no seller wants to lose money on a sale

Don't pay with a substantial amount of cash. Most crooks would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that can be traced

Check the vehicle's V5/logbook, as stolen documents are often used to accompany cloned vehicles.

If there are any doubts walk away - it could save you thousands

Always conduct a vehicle history check