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4 min read Published October 11, 2022

Writer: Kellye Guinan Written by Personal and business finance contributor

Kellye Guinan is a freelance editor and writer with more than 5 years experience working in the field of personal finances. She’s also a full-time librarian at the local library which she assists her local community to gain access to information on financial literacy, as well as other subjects.

Editor: Helen Wilbers Edited by

Helen Wilbers has been editing for Bankrate since late 2022. He is a fan of transparent reporting that allows readers to easily get deals and make best decisions for their financials. He specializes in small and auto loans.

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With the cost of new cars hitting the record-setting levels, you may be thinking about buying a used car. Be cautious that car theft is spiking and you don’t want to purchase a vehicle that has been stolen. In 2021, 932,329 cars were reported stolen, up 10.9 percent from 2020 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). There’s also a chance that the vehicle you’re considering buying is a cloned vehicle. Car cloning is when a car-thief steals license plates, as well as registration stickers from a legal vehicle and then puts them on a stolen vehicle with a similar model and model. The criminal may also utilize fake documents to offer you a brand new car. Be cautious when purchasing from a private seller or a dealer. And if something feels strange, you should look elsewhere. There are a lot of used vehicles available for sale. 6 steps to check whether the car you’re purchasing is stolen To avoid the hassle of buying a fake car, make sure you adhere to these steps. 1. Verify the VIN thoroughly. You can do this by checking the information with government agencies or the department of motor vehicles. You can also look up a car’s VIN via the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VIN Check service, suggests Renee Valdes, senior advice editor at Kelley Blue Book. This free service can inform you of any insurance records of a stolen vehicle, which includes one that is not yet recovered. “Some vehicles have the VIN in the driver’s front door or on the windshield and some owners can have the VIN written on the window or inside the engine” says Valdes. “Carmakers are trying to make it difficult for thieves to steal VINs and make counterfeit ones.” It is possible that the VIN could also be etched into the vehicle’s dashboard. Be cautious, especially when it comes to numerals and letters that look like each other. Because the VIN must be located in multiple locations, look at each one to ensure that they are in line. If they don’t then they could have been tampered with. 2. Buy a report on the history of your vehicle. Request a report on the history of your vehicle using the VIN, suggests Valdes. Businesses that provide report on the history of a vehicle include . “These aren’t very costly, and they’re worth it,” says Valdes. The reports on vehicle history include details like Service history Information on the title Liens that are held in the car’s accident history and damage Previous owners But even though the report will include the prior owners of the vehicle, it won’t include the names of the owners. “If you can trace the past complete to the present it’s likely that it’s well taken care of and not taken away,” says Valdes. However, if there’s gaps in the history or the car isn’t up to the current date, it could indicate that the car has been taken. 3. Perform a title search can search for a car’s title by using the . If the person who is trying to sell the car isn’t listed on the title, you’ll be able to tell it’s a stolen car. Having access to the title of the vehicle can help identify any contradictions between what the seller is telling you against what’s written on the title, for instance if the car is one and what the mileage was at the time it was last sold. 4. Request the seller’s car’s service history If the seller has you maintenance receipts There is a greater likelihood that it’s not a stolen car, explains Valdes. Examine the receipts to determine if the VIN the make, model and year on the receipts correspond to the vehicle. Compare the maintenance records with the vehicle history report and check if they are in line. “A vehicle is usually a consumer’s second largest purchase,” says Valdes. “I always thought of my car as if I would be selling it one day and that means taking proper care of it and getting regular oil changes.” Also, you should ask to see if you can see the previous bill of sale when the seller bought the vehicle. It’s not too late to inquire about the seller’s contact information and what they originally purchased the car for. A legitimate seller shouldn’t hesitate to provide you with this information. 5. Ask your auto insurance company to inspect your car. Ask your insurance company if it’s willing to inspect cars for safety, and for any indications of fraud. However, you should conduct your own due diligence, however, your insurance provider may be able to find additional details to verify that your vehicle is safe and legal all requirements. Additionally, certain states or insurance companies may require an inspection of your vehicle prior to you . This is usually required prior to when the insurance company approves your auto insurance policy. It is only necessary if you’re buying certain kinds of insurance for example . 6. Trust your gut If the price is too good to be true, or the seller is overly keen to sell you the car and wants you to skip the deal, go with your gut. There are many sellers, and used car dealerships there are many trustworthy options to choose from. You may notice differences between what the seller tells you about the vehicle and what you find out during your research. This isn’t always a warning sign. There are many car owners who keep meticulous records, and if the vehicle was purchased and sold several times, there could be certain information that is not there. But if you spot discrepancies without a reason then walk away. What to do if the car you’re buying is stolen? If you learn if the car you’re buying is missing, you must file a police report. You must provide your purchase bill and any pertinent documents and details. Unfortunately, if the car you purchase was stolen or is an “cloned car,” it was never actually yours. This means you are not the legal owner of the vehicle and it will be taken away and given to the rightful owner. If a theft claim has already been issued to insurers, the car is returned to the insurance company. The loss will be the same. If you haven’t purchased the car yet, just walk away from the car and do not look back, advises Valdes. When you’re sure to do so, you can file a police report. The most important thing to remember is that thieves are getting craftier, stay alert about potential threats and investigate the vehicle thoroughly, advises Valdes. This could include doing a search on the VIN and requesting a vehicle history report, and asking for additional information and documents to identify whether the vehicle has been stolen. “Don’t be afraid to take every precaution, even in the booming used car industry,” says Valdes.


Written by Personal and business finance Contributor

Kellye Guinan is a freelance editor and writer who has more than five years of experience in personal finance. She also works full-time as a worker at her local library in which she assists the community access information about financial literacy, in addition to other subjects.

Edited by Helen Wilbers Edited by

Helen Wilbers has been editing for Bankrate since late 2022. He is a fan of clear reporting that helps readers successfully find deals and make the best choices for their finances. He specializes in auto and small business loans.

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