Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) tampering is a practice that has become more popular in the last few years. Lots of shady used car sellers use it to hide negative information or release stolen vehicles. Commonly, they use a VIN of the same car model and color to fake the history of drastically damaged cars they’re selling. Meanwhile, some thieves attach VIN plates and labels pulled from cars that have been totaled or junked to stolen vehicles. When looking for a decent used vehicle, a buyer should know how to identify a fake VIN to protect themselves from fraud.
Use a VIN Decoder
A VIN Decoder helps you pull original VIN characteristics and compare to the current vehicle’s description. A VIN code is like a fingerprint for a car. Therefore, it’s very hard to pick a VIN that would perfectly match another vehicle. If you detect any inconsistency, you should run the title check by VIN and get a maintenance report to check if there are any associated motor vehicle records. Maybe the car was reconstructed after damage, but that can also be a sign of VIN tampering. ClearVin captures VIN specifications at the time of manufacture and provides a free VIN decoder service for your advantage.
Inspect the car
The first thing to do is to check whether all the VIN plates and labels aren’t out of turn and clear enough. There shouldn’t be any scratches on labels or on the surrounding area. When inspecting a vehicle, look for signs that the windshield may have been removed in order to pull off the VIN plate. For example, there may be loose molding or excessive glue. Sometimes, there may be rivet holes where the plate was fastened. Also, you might notice that the plate is much cleaner than the rest of the firewall. That can be a sign the plate showed up there much later. Our recent post, “How to locate a VIN code” won’t let you skip a spot with a VIN plate and help in conducting a thorough checkup. Alternatively, you may have a mechanic inspect the car. The professional mechanic might be able to identify a fake VIN better and faster than you. ClearVin also offers a free license plate lookup service to retrieve vehicle records by your license plate number.
Run a VIN check
When a car is reported stolen, its VIN code will be entered into the NMVTIS database. NMVTIS is the largest federal database that was created to prevent the reintroduction of stolen cars into interstate commerce. Their main goal to protect used cars consumers from fraud, and reduce the use of stolen vehicles for illegal purposes. ClearVin is one of few official providers of NMVTIS records. We do our best to deliver the most comprehensive history overview of any used vehicle in the U.S.
If you are buying a used car, always check the vehicle and insist on taking it to inspection. Even if the VIN code is original, you’ll run a complete VIN lookup that would help you to make a more informed decision and negotiate better. Remember that if you detect or suspect a VIN fraud activity, you should report to the National Insurance Crime Bureau or call the police.