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  • Abbie Jones

Understanding Car VIN Cloning and How to Protect Yourself

Car VIN cloning is a criminal act belonging to the illegal trade of stealing vehicles. Police forces estimate that up to 20% of cars on the road are running on cloned plates, and as many as 1000 instances of car VIN cloning have been reported in one month. To help you understand what car VIN cloning is and how to protect yourself against it, read our Keytek® Auto Locksmiths blog on how to do this and keep your car safe.

What is a Car VIN Number?

A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a vehicles' specific identity code. It has essentially got the same effect as a fingerprint, as no two vehicles will have the same VIN, and is made up of 17 digits and letters that tells you when and where the car was built. The VIN number will never change during the lifetime of a vehicle. To find out where your car VIN number could be, read our advice page.

The vehicle identification number identifies special features that are unique to that singular car, such as the manufacturer, year, make, and model. The VIN is essential to a car as it can be used for manufcaturers to track their vehicles. It can also be used to track registrations, any warranty claims and theft and insurance coverage.

What is Car VIN Cloning?

Car VIN cloning is using a vehicle identification number from a legally registered car to hide the identity of a stolen vehicle. A criminal will use a stolen vehicle that then gets 'cloned', where its VIN plate is removed and replaced with another one, that holds a legitimate number coming from a vehicle of a smiliar make and model. It can now be registered with another motor vehicle agency, and sold to unwilling buyers who think that their new vehicle is 'clean'.

Car VIN cloning is a problem and is illegal because if you buy a cloned vehicle (even without knowing that it's been cloned) and it is discovered that it has been cloned, the car will be confiscated and you could be responsible for any outstanding loans.

If your vehicle is a victim of car cloning and it's your VIN number that has been cloned, then you could be accused of various crimes that are being committed under your VIN number.

How to Know if a Car has been Cloned when Buying

1. Get the VIN Number Prior

If you are able to get the car's VIN number before meeting with the seller, then you are in a position where you can check the VIN across stolen vehicle databases. The AA Car Data Check also offer protection against buying a cloned car by providing them the VIN and serial number, so that they can check if the details are legitimate.

2. Vehicle History

Getting a copy of the cars vehicle history report will help to indicate whether the cars VIN is legitimate, or whether it seems dodgy, and you can confirm that any work or services listed have been done by checking with the relevant garage.

3. Car Prices

When shopping for a new car, if a seller is selling a car for a considerably less amount than comparable makes and models, then there is a chance that the car has been cloned and that it is illegal and not legitimate.

If you find out that you've accidentally bought a car that has been cloned, then you'll need to let the police know as soon as possible and provide as many details about the seller as you can. The car can then be returned to it's rightful owner, and you should be able to claim the cost of the car back through the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

How to Protect Yourself Against Car VIN Cloning


Installing a security camera or a tracker inside your car can provide useful evidence to show where your car has been, and if people are getting too close to it and are trying to steal the vehicle identification number. If you notice that this is the case, then you can get in contact with the police straight away, and have the digital evidence to prove it.

2. Parking

If you can park your car in a garage, then we definitely recommend doing so. Doing this will make it more difficult for criminals to get a hold of your VIN and any distinguishable features that your car has.

3. Theft-Resistant Screws

A way t make it harder for a criminal to physically steal a number plate would be by using anti-theft resistant screws.

How Will I Know if My Car has been Cloned?

The best way to tell if your car has been cloned or is going to be cloned, is if your number plate has been physically stolen. This is a sign that your cars VIN could be used illegally on another car and should be reported to the police and the DVLA immediately.

Another way to tell that your car has been cloned is unfortunately when it is too late. If you start receiving driving or parking fines that you know haven't been committed by you, then this is a sign that your VIN could be used elsewhere on another car. If this has happened to you, then contact the police and the DVLA straight away, and provide as much evidence as you can that you didn't commit the offence.

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