Connecticut Better Business Bureau Warns Consumers About "Car Cloning"

Unwitting consumers face confiscation and potential criminal charges

Wallingford, CT, April 16, 2009 --( BBB is warning Connecticut consumers in the market for a new vehicle to ensure that their new dream car or truck has not been cloned.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) defines car cloning as stealing the identity of a legitimately owned vehicle and transferring it to a stolen car. Law enforcement officials across the nation are working together to break major car cloning rings.

Here is how the scheme works: It begins with a stolen vehicle, typically a high-end vehicle or fully-loaded SUV. The Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.) installed in several places in vehicles by the manufacturer, is pried off and replaced with a legitimate one from the same make, model, year and color vehicle. These “new” VINs are sometimes harvested from cars at salvage yards.

Falsified ownership documents complete the cloning and the vehicle is then registered anew and sold. Cloned vehicles have been sold in 20 states and other countries.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, says consumers who unwittingly buy cloned cars can be held responsible for a variety of crimes.

“Owners of cloned vehicles can have their cars confiscated, left to pay balances of the car’s loan, and may be accused of a variety of traffic infractions and even participation in organized crime. Since it is an uphill battle to correct the problems and clear their names, it is best to be aware of this scheme.”

Connecticut State Police say state authorities are cooperating with law enforcement agencies across the country to break up car cloning rings.

The good news is that a new national database may help stop car cloning. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 73 percent of the U.S. vehicle population is registered in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, (NMVTIS). A majority of states, 37, are either part of or in the process of joining the system. Connecticut however, is among the more than a dozen states that are not participating in the program.

NMVTIS can provide detailed information about title data, latest odometer readings, theft history (if any), branding information, which is a notation on the certificate of ownership or vehicle registration certificate that records a special circumstance or condition involving a vehicle, and salvage history, including designations as a “total loss,” if any. This information allows state titling agencies to verify ownership documents before issuing new titles. A pilot study revealed the program could reduce insurance payoffs by $20 million a year and prevent title washing of approximately 60,000 brands a year.

Better Business Bureau and F.B. I. offer the following advice to car-buying consumers to avoid getting snared into buying a cloned vehicle, and determine if a vehicle is cloned:

-Get a copy of the car’s vehicle history report.

-Always check under the hood to ensure V.I.N. numbers match, and check for signs of tampering such as scratches.

-If you are car shopping, beware of a car being sold for substantially less than comparable makes and models.

-Look for incorrect spellings on paperwork, like vehicle titles.

-If you think your car was cloned (for instance, you receive notice of unpaid parking tickets that aren't yours), contact your local police.

-Trust your intuition—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

For more helpful consumer information visit

Better Business Bureau CT
Howard Schwartz
203-279-2700 ext. 103
94 South Turnpike Rd
Wallingford, CT 06492