Clones, ringers and how to avoid them
A clone (or ringer) is a vehicle that's given the identity of a different one. By putting another car's number plate on, for instance, fraudsters try to hide the fact that the one you're looking at is stolen.
Any AutoCheck, HPI or other history checks won't show a problem - you'll actually be checking a different car to the one you're considering.
But if you do buy a cloned car, you'll lose both the car and your hard earned cash.
What do the fraudsters do?
To clone a car, fraudsters can:
- Use false number plates. The number plate details are taken from a similar, but legitimate, car - ie one of the same make, model, colour and engine size.
- Change the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in the obvious places. When you check it, it corresponds with the new number plate.
- Produce a false registration document. This can be a forgery or a blank stolen document they've filled in.
When you do a data check, it's carried out on the false number plate. The results will match the vehicle, make, model, colour, VIN - but won't show it's stolen.
However, the reality is that the number plate you've checked is not the one for the car being sold.
What happens if you buy a clone
Stolen vehicles remain the property of the original owner (or their insurer if it's paid out on a theft claim). The real owner is entitled to reclaim their vehicle.
When this happens, you're unlikely to get your money back from the person who sold you their car. They are a criminal who knowingly sold you a stolen car - so they will have vanished with your money.
How to avoid becoming a victim
Go to the seller's address
Criminals won't want you to know where they live. So always to go to the seller. Never agree to him bringing the vehicle to you, or to meet him at a mutually convenient location. (As you're meeting a stranger, you may also want to bring a friend for security).
If the seller says he is a motor dealer, meet at his premises. A bone fide trader will also have printed invoices and a landline phone number (check it works).
Check the documents carefully
Inspect all the documents. To help you spot forgeries, take your current registration document and use it to compare the layout and font.
You can also contact DVLA to check the serial number on the registration document matches their records (0300 790 6802). Never buy a vehicle without a full registration document.
Make sure the seller has the right to sell the car
Do an AutoCheck first. Then make sure you meet at the address on the registration document. Make sure you go into the house - don't just meet on the street.
If there's any discrepancy, walk away - don't listen to any excuses.
If there is a match, it's still wise to ask for more ID, such as a passport or recent utility bill. An innocent person won't mind you being cautious, but a thief will make excuses.
If someone has died, don't be too embarrassed to ask to see the death certificate or solicitors' letter as proof that the car has passed to the seller.
Beware of bargains
Beware of cars sold at a much lower price than similar models. If the seller is willing to drop the price even further, often because there is minor bodywork damage, then make further checks.
A thief will accept almost any amount, rather than be caught with a stolen vehicle.
This is a real problem
If this sounds unrealistic, it's not! Most people are honest, and many cars are sold privately every year without incident.
But we do hear sad stories when things go wrong.
To see your new car taken from you and to lose the thousands of pounds you paid is very distressing.
When you run an AutoCheck, we cover you against errors in the data supplied to us. However, our Data Insurance policy doesn't cover clones, as the information we provide is correct based on the vehicle details given to us.
Some data checking companies claim to cover clones. However, check their terms and conditions as the cover is limited and you may find it difficult to make a successful claim.
If you follow all the advice given on this site you will considerably reduce the risk of losing your car and your money.
Any person buying a used car should also seek their own independent advice
Start your AutoCheck now
Help and advice
Some relevant frequently asked questions
When does the 60 days start? When I register, purchase or when I check the first vehicle?
The 60 days start from the date of purchase of the AutoCheck.
Can you buy a check over the phone?
This service is an online service only, so we are unable to carry out a check over the phone.
When do I get my check?
You report appears as soon as you have successfully made your purchase. The results are instant.
How much does the data check insurance cost?
There is no extra charge for the data insurance, it is included in the cost of your check.
View a sample report
Here you can see an example report of an AutoCheck.
This will show you how your report will be presented to you once purchased.