Used car could be stolen - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Used car could be stolen

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Imagine buying a car and then finding out shortly thereafter that it really doesn't belong to you. Experts say that's exactly what's happening to some folks who buy used cars.

"Thieves are taking the VIN numbers of good automobiles that are of course not stolen and transferring those and counterfeiting VIN number plates, putting them on stolen vehicles of like or similar size," says local Better Business Bureau President Leonard Crain.

The cars are then sold to unsuspecting buyers.    

BBB officials are warning consumers that VIN cloning is on the rise.  As more people search for bargains with used vehicles, crooks are taking advantage.

According to recent statistics from Carfax, as many as 225,000 of the 1.5 million cars stolen every year have been subject to vehicle cloning. 

Crain says the transactions usually happen through classifieds with one person selling a car to another.  The problem is, once police track down the true owner, the buyer is out of the car and the cash.

So how do you protect yourself?

"Not only are you looking at the normal things you look at but you'll also want to be checking to see if you can see whether the VIN number has been changed or altered in any way," says Crain.      

Crain also says if the price seems too good to be true, don't fall for it, or a seller who claims they need cash immediately.

Experts say in addition to the dash and the door jam, another place to look for a car's VIN number is under the hood.  Crooks sometimes get lazy and don't replace that one.  

However, when looking for a used car, make sure you do a thorough check of the car's title, registration and other documents.  Plus, you can always get a complete vehicle history report.  That way you're less likely to be taken for a ride.

If you do believe you're a victim of this type of crime, experts say contact the police.


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