Tulsa Police Warn Of Car Cloning

Thursday, March 26th 2009, 8:56 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Police are warning the public of cases of car cloning.

The problem is so big, the FBI is involved.

Car thieves troll parking lots looking for upscale vehicles, often SUVs, to steal.

Before, they would have to sell it to a chop shop for parts or get rid of it on the black market. But now they have figured out a way to get top dollar by selling it to legitimate dealers.

They take the car out of state and find a vehicle that's a similar make and model. They write down that vehicle's VIN and make a replica plate.

Then, the thieves pull the VIN plate off the stolen car and replace it with the one they have made that has the legitimate car's number on it. Now they have a clone -- two vehicles, one VIN.

They forge a title to match the legitimate VIN and can easily sell it to an unsuspecting person or dealership.

The FBI says cloning is by far its biggest problem when it comes to car theft. If it comes to light you're driving a stolen car, you'll lose the car, but not the payments.

"Once cops figure out you're the one driving that car, regardless of the VIN, your car will be impounded and you're still stuck holding the tab for the loan on that vehicle," said Rick Brinkley with the Tulsa Better Business Bureau.

The feds say a nationwide database that connects all the motor vehicle departments in every state will stop this. All 50 states are required to join it by Jan. 1. Until then, buyer beware.

"What consumers need to realize, they're probably buying from a dealership and they have no idea the car has been stolen either," Brinkley said. "They take it at face value that the VIN and title match, so they are just as much a victim in this as anybody else."

Cars have more than a VIN, so make sure they all match the one on the dash. Check the VIN plate for signs of tampering, like scratches.

Run a history report on the VIN and look for minor differences like different year or color, and check the title for any misspellings.

All of those are red flags and could keep you from buying a cloned car.