Identity Theft for Cars

HPI is warning dealers to protect themselves from the growing threat of car cloning - the vehicle equivalent of identity theft.  The latest review of clones claims from vehicle provenance expert, HPI, worryingly confirms that many are still falling prey to the clone connoisseur and it urges dealers to apply simple but effective measures to avoid being left seriously out of pocket.

It is perhaps of little surprise that premium brands are high on the more sophisticated cloner’s shopping list, with Mercedes and BMW both featuring in the top ten of HPI’s clones claims analysis, accounting for 16% and 10% respectively.   Closer analysis suggests that the Mercedes C Class and BMW 3 series are prime targets, along with the Audi A4 and the Volkswagen Golf and Passat, all of which have seen claims rise against them.

Criminals create a ‘clone’ of a car by stealing the identity from another vehicle. They replace the number plates and VIN on their car with the stolen identity from an almost identical vehicle of the same make, model and colour. “Criminals are opportunists and will exploit any weakness, whether it’s in a car’s security system or its identity,” explains Daniel Burgess, Automotive Director of HPI.  “In the war against the unscrupulous, the motor industry has worked hard to improve the quality and accuracy of the data it holds on used cars.  Inevitably, this has made selling a stolen vehicle without changing its identity, all but impossible, hence the rise in car cloning. This has not been helped by further recent news from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of suspect V5 vehicle registration documents circulating.  However, despite this increase, many people are still sceptical of the reality of problem and even the police admit they don’t know its true scale.”

Interestingly, the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Nissan Nivara all appear on HPI’s top ten, suggesting that the white van man needs to watch out for criminals trying to earn a fast buck, particularly in today’s economic climate.  However, it is clear to see that claims for Mercedes Sprinter, as well as the Mitsubishi L200, have dropped significantly over the last 4 years.

Overall, HPI’s analysis confirms that criminals seem to target one model from a particular manufacturer before moving on elsewhere. However, it is not clear if this reflects market demand or if awareness and improvements to security measures influence this change.

Continues Daniel Burgess:  “Whilst the industry as a whole is constantly warning buyers to be on watch for these criminals, we are staggered by how many clone claims we get from consumers who have paid less than 70% of the market value for the car.  Why didn’t alarm bells ring? Equally, there are hundreds of people out there willing to hand over thousands of pounds in cash to a complete stranger.   But the most important fact is that simply conducting a history check against the VIN isn’t enough and leaves consumers and dealers vulnerable to cloners.  Those blinded by a vehicle and who don’t use due diligence, are putting themselves at considerable risk.  If you buy a clone you stand to lose the car and the money you paid for it, as the stolen vehicle will be returned to its rightful owner.

The HPI Check, which confirms a vehicle’s history, also provides 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.  The HPI Check is the only history check in the market to provide financial compensation in the event of a clone being bought*. Analysis of HPI’s claims data since 2004 has revealed that by educating consumers to arm themselves with the fullest possible level of information, helps them to spot a fake and walk away.

Top Ten Cloned Vehicles  by Make and Model - 2007-2008
  • Mercedes C Class 10%
  • Ford Transit 8%
  • Audi A4  8%
  • BMW 3 Series 7%
  • Audi TT 7%
  • Volkswagen Golf 5%
  • Vauxhall Vivaro 5%
  • Land Rover 3%
  • Peugeot 206 3%
  • Volkswagen Passat 3%
Top 10 Cloned Cars by Make and Model 2004-2008
  • Mitsubishi L200 12%
  • Fort Transit 11%
  • Land Rover 7%
  • Volkswagen Golf 6%
  • BMW 3 Series 5%
  • Mercedes Sprinter 5%
  • Audi TT 4%
  • Mercedes C Class 4%
  • Nissan Navara 4%
  • Peugeot 206 2%
31 July 2008 Staff

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