Your Car’s VIN and Auto Thieves / Don’t Be A Victim

Automobile theft is the most expensive property crime in the United States. Cars can be stolen anywhere, from city or rural areas, although the vast majority does occur in urban areas.

A lot has been done by law enforcement and manufacturers to try to cut down on this type of crime and just as importantly find the perpetrators. Typically, a stolen car ends up at a “chop shop” where parts are removed and eventually sold on the market. Ways to make it more difficult for chop shops to profit from this crime are discussed below.

The VIN is to be Permanent

The VIN is your unique Vehicle Identification Number, etched on labels that are supposed to be permanently fixed to the body and other parts of your car. The VIN is the mostly reliable way of being able to accurately trace a vehicle’s history and help to confirm title ownership. It’s a crime to change a VIN and this applies to restorers who might be building a car from numerous different parts.

The bad news is that sometimes, VIN  switched cars have been sold by respectable auto dealers who were completely unaware of the crime themselves.

In the case of the unwitting buyer, if you purchase a car in good faith that turns out to have been stolen and the VIN switched, you could end up being out the total cost of the vehicle unless you can persuade a legitimate seller to give you a refund. This simply means buyer beware.

Don’t Be a Victim

There are certain things you can do to try to reduce your chances of being a victim. Here’s what the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) suggests:

Look closely at the VIN plate, located on the driver’s side of the dashboard, to see if it appears tampered.

Never buy a used car without getting the vehicle’s title or pink slip in person; and double check the vehicle identification number with the number listed on the title, the registration papers and the federal certification label on the driver’s side door.

Ask to see identification of the person who is selling you the car; write down his/her name, address, phone number and driver’s license number for your records.

Call the phone number given to you by the vehicle’s owner. Often, scam artists will provide the phone number of a random pay phone.

Be on the alert for car deals that seem too good to be true.

To check to see if a particular car has been listed as stolen, see the database at website…

How Your VIN Can Help Thieves

Another angle used by car thieves involved getting a copy of your car key.They have achieved this by simply writing down your VIN which is visible through the corner of your windshield. It works like this...

The car thieves look through the windshield of your car or truck, write down the VIN number from the label on the dash, go into the local dealership for that auto brand and request a duplicate key for it from the VIN number. Car dealerships produce a duplicate key using the VIN, get a payment from the 'customer' who's really a would-be car thief for making up the duplicate key. The thief then goes back to your vehicle, inserts the key they've just received from the dealer and off they drive with your car or truck.

One way to avoid being a victim of this type of auto theft is by putting a tape (perhaps electrical tape across the VIN on your upper dashboard. Some states may prohibit this so you should check with your particular state’s DMV.

Car dealerships have become aware of this particular scam and it’s reported to be more difficult to perform without adequate ID.

The Federal Parts Marking Program

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association not only engaged in writing and enforcing safety issues but also is involved in anti-theft resistance. A regulation that was issued through the NHTSA requires that manufacturers mark about a dozen parts that are described as being the most stolen from vehicles. These include parts like the engine,quarter panels, doors and fenders.

The parts are to be marked with the vehicles VIN. This step alone can help law enforcement break up car theft rings. In addition to this, it is said that there is an unspecified location on a vehicle where the VIN is located that only the manufacturer and police departments know about. Typically, each manufacturer may choose it’s own secret location. This is a big step to identify stolen vehicles that have had the VIN removed from all other areas.

While there have been modifications to the regulation as to which type vehicles must have certain parts marked with the VIN, for updates and information you might refer to website...