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The scourge of car crime

10th of November, 2010

Rampant car cloning and second-hand rip offs boost car fraud

  • 400,000 stolen registration documents are unaccounted for
  • The Government's new anti-fraud registration scheme not fully effective until 2012
  • 192.com survey finds 14% have been ripped off when buying a second hand car
  • 33% of shoppers never trust a used car-dealer when making a financial transaction

Identity-checking experts 192.com are warning drivers to validate the addresses of second hand car-sellers following high levels of number plate and registration document theft, used to clone cars.

Car cloning is the vehicle equivalent of identity theft. Rogue traders copy the number plate and other identifying details of a legitimate car on to a similar, but stolen clone. They can also copy the genuine vehicle's log book (V5C form) by using one of the thousands of blank documents stolen in 2006.

A spokesperson for the DVLA told 192.com that the Home Office estimate 45,000 number plates were stolen between 2009 and 2010, and that thousands of registration documents stolen in 2006 are feared to be in the hands of fraudsters.

"Three thousand of the stolen documents have surfaced so far" the spokesperson said, "But the police advise that as a worst case, 400,000 of the documents cannot be accounted for and could have fallen into criminal hands."

192.com's nationally representative poll indicates the scale of car fraud in the UK. Of the 1,500 surveyed, 14% had been 'ripped off' when buying a second hand car and 33% said they never trust a car-dealer when making a financial transaction. Age groups most likely to be ripped off were over 65, with 24% of the respondents in this age-group reporting being scammed. The most trusting were aged 25 to 34 with 14% saying they always trusted car dealers.

A problem for consumers is not being able to identify the true owners of the seller, or their suitability as traders.

Gerry Taylor, Trading Standards Institute Lead Officer for the Motor Trade, advises consumers and businesses on car trading.

"People often come to me when it's too late" he said. "They've bought a cloned car and the person who sold it to them has disappeared."

"Cloned cars can be lethal; they are sometimes patched together from other vehicles. I've heard of one Land Rover that lasted two days," he added.

Mr Taylor has the following advice for people buying a car off the net:

"Watch out for a website without a land-line telephone number or an address, or a customer services option which doesn't work. The law requires all web sites to provide an address for contact purposes."

"Be careful if the trader's address appears false or short term. An improper trader doesn't want you know they are running their business from a bedsit."

"A rogue trader might suggest meeting you 'half-way' between his premises and yours, typically in a motor service station or a lay-by. He can then show you the car he's selling while appearing to be a bonafide company. Avoid buying vehicles under these circumstances at all costs."

Dominic Blackburn, Product Director at 192.com says: "Before buying your car verify the seller's address by checking it against the edited electoral roll, accessible on 192.com. If he's a dealer you can background check them using the director and company credit reports also available on 192.com."

Shop for cars safer on 192.com by:

  • Use 192.com's Land Registry and 24 million electoral roll records to match the car seller's name with an address. If he operates out of a bedsit, you'll know.
  • The seller's name and address checks out. But what sort of company are you dealing with? 192.com provides access to company credit reports, and third party web references. Also, when checking out a UK company credit report on 192.com you can see if there have been county-court judgments against that business - useful to know if you're about to write them a cheque.
  • Your seller says they're a company director? Find out if they are with access to 192.com's director reports.
  • Utilise 192.com's free directory enquiries to find the most recognisable high street car dealer nearest you.

The government introduced a new vehicle registration certificate in August, following a BBC investigation which found that motorists had been conned out of £13 million. However drivers continue to be duped because cars already on the road will only receive the new documents when they are relicensed or declared to be off the road. It is thought the old style V5C forms will not be completely obsolete until August 2012.

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office.


192.com is the UK's most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for over 4 millions of users every month. On 192.com, users can search almost 700 million records including free directory enquiries, edited electoral rolls, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports.


192.com's findings are based on statements from the DVLA, and the Trading Standards Institute. This release also uses stats from the 2009-2010 British Crime Survey, the Metropolitan Police and a nationally representative poll of 1,500 conducted by One Poll in 2010.

DVLA and Police advice

The DVLA advises checking the seller's proof of ownership such as a bill of sale before handing over money for a used car. They have also published the following advice before buying a used vehicle on the web: www.direct.gov.uk/buyerbeware

The Metropolitan Police reported 28,000 motor vehicle thefts between 2008 and 2009 and have the following advice for buying a second hand car:

  • Ask to see proof of the seller's identity and address - an official letter or driving licence, for example.
  • Make sure the car's VIN matches that on the registration document (V5). This the VIN, formerly known as the chassis number, a unique 17 character number issued to every vehicle by the manufacturer. It can be found stamped on the body chassis or frame, on a manufacturer's VIN plate under the bonnet or fixed to the post between the front and rear doors. It's also found on an additional plate fixed securely to the top corner of the dashboard where it can easily be seen through the windscreen - this is called a visible VIN.
  • Never let the seller bring the car to you, as you may need to confirm their address details.
  • Never buy a car without the registration document (V5) - make sure it has a DVLA watermark and has not been altered in any way.
  • If in doubt, ask the AA, RAC or another reputable organisation to inspect the car before agreeing to buy.

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office.