Despite ongoing warnings of the very real threat of car cloning, leading vehicle information expert HPI believes people are more at risk of buying a cloned car than ever before. As economic uncertainty continues, fraudsters are using more sophisticated methods to clone vehicles and dupe unsuspecting used car buyers. HPI offers four simple steps to help consumers protect themselves and their finances from the used car criminal.

    Good Car Bad Car – HPI Check

    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.

    HPI offers four simple, but highly effective rules consumers should apply when buying privately. These can radically reduce the risk of falling into the cloned car trap:

    One… Always check the provenance/history of the car, and make sure you view it at the registered keepers address (as shown on the V5/logbook). Buyers should ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then use the HPI Check to ensure they tally with the details as recorded with the DVLA.

    Two… Know the car’s market value. If you are paying less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle, then be on your guard. No seller will want to lose money on their sale. In one case an HPI customer paid £11,000 cash for a vehicle HPI valued at £21,000. There is rarely such a thing as a bargain and in this case the car was later proven to be a clone.

    Three… Don’t pay with a substantial amount of cash, particularly if the car is costing you more than £3,000. Some cloners will take a bankers draft as part payment, because the cash part is sufficient profit without ever cashing the bankers draft. Most crooks selling cloned cars would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that could be traced back to them. Despite strong advice to buyers to pay via the banking system, HPI still hears of many buyers who go on to pay in cash and subsequently find out that the car is a clone, and that they’ve lost both their money and the vehicle.

    Four… Check the vehicle’s V5/logbook. Stolen V5 documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles, despite the new issue of the updated red and blue V5 document. As an added security measure, the HPI Check continues to include a unique stolen V5 document check as standard. This will confirm whether or not the document is one that the DVLA have recorded as stolen.

    “Today, it’s almost impossible to sell a stolen vehicle without changing its identity, which is why car cloning remains a very real threat to buyers,” explains Kristian Welch, Consumer Director for HPI. “Worryingly, whilst we believe awareness of car of cloning has grown, many buyers still choose to ignore the warning signs because their heart tells them it’s a dream buy. This means they are leaving the door wide open for heartbreak and financial loss.

    “Consumers simply do not realise that if they buy a clone they stand to lose the car and their money. Once a vehicle is revealed as stolen, it will be returned to its rightful owner, leaving the clone victim with no car and thousands of pounds out of pocket. HPI is committed to raising awareness of the importance of a vehicle history check to make certain any car purchase is a wise one. We advise people to “check with HPI before they buy” to ensure they can walk away before any harm is done.

    As well as confirming 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(3). 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 .