As vehicle thefts soar, Criminals up the Ante on Car Cloning

Reports of vehicle theft increasing by a staggering 30%* hitting the headlines prompts TRACKER, the stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, to remind motorists that nearly 50% of all cars stolen in the UK are never reunited with their legitimate owners, and this figure is set to increase as government austerity measures hit police capabilities.

Whilst today’s criminals are quick to overcome sophisticated security systems, their means of disposal are tried and tested, with stolen cars being sold on to unsuspecting buyers disguised by a cloned identity. However, the demise of stolen vehicle squads and specially trained officers could see the fight against vehicle cloning wane, fears TRACKER (part of the Tantalum Corporation).

Car cloning is the vehicle equivalent of identity fraud – criminals steal a car and give it a new identity copied from a similar make and model vehicle already on the road. The criminal alters the unique 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the stolen car and in many cases, will invariably use a stolen V5/logbook to try to legitimise its identity.

A vehicle with a cloned identity is all the more difficult for the police to identify, and in turn, easier for the thief to sell on. Stolen vehicle recovery devices that combine VHF, GSP and GSM technology, such as TRACKER’s unique SVR solution, offer owners the greatest chance of their assets being located and recovered.

Last week a TRACKER equipped Metropolitan Police patrol car tracked and recovered a fully loaded 2013 Land Rover Discovery in Carshalton that was already on false plates, even though it had only been stolen a couple of hours earlier. Andy Barrs, Head of Police Liaison at TRACKER explains: “We will probably never know what the thieves intended to do with the car, but cloning is very likely to have been their motive. The next step would have been for the thieves to replace the existing VIN identification marks and the chassis plate. It’s not difficult if you have the know-how and the contacts to produce a cloned car.”

The ease with which today’s criminals can steal a car at one end of the country and then clone it with the identification number of a vehicle several hundred miles away, must not be under estimated says TRACKER. With traffic officer numbers having reduced by a third since austerity cuts began to bite, the chances of a cloned car being stopped and identified are significantly lower than they were a decade ago.

Andy Barrs continues: “Austerity cuts to policing by central government, mean the vast majority of police forces no longer have the specialist trained staff capable of identifying and investigating vehicle cloning.

“The Met, Essex, Merseyside and Cheshire Police still retain some capability in this area, but more recently Police Scotland decided to move their only stolen vehicle examiner to other duties. Shortly before they did this he called me from a cut and shut shop in Glasgow in relation to a cloned Audi A6; it had so many different stolen parts fitted, he was struggling to identify the true identity of the car. Fortunately, it had been fitted with one of our unique VHF units just before it left the showroom, so when it sprung to life he knew he had a stolen car on his hands. Fitting a tracking device is one of the few means by which the police can still identify cloned cars, in fact over 95% of stolen vehicles fitted with a TRACKER unit are successfully located and recovered.”

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