• Mar 25, 2009
The Federal Bureau of Investigations has shut down a car theft ring operating in the U.S. for more than 20 years, causing in excess of $25 million in losses to owners and banks. According to CNN, the ring would clone cars, swiping the legal identity of one car – VIN numbers, tags, stickers -- and applying it to another, stolen car. The cloned car would then be sold to a dealer or consumer, and the countdown would begin: Eventually, most would be discovered as stolen property and confiscated, but the buyer would remain on the hook for the money owed.

For example, a man in Florida bought a Ford F-350 Super Duty for $27,000 last year from a used car dealer. Nine months later, it was tracked down and confiscated, but the bank has told the owner that he's still on the hook for the loan for a vehicle he no longer has.

Although the FBI admonishes, "Folks should be educated enough so that they don't buy a car from a stranger, on the street, or in a back alley somewhere," that might be a bit much, and the Super Duty owner bought the car at a used car lot. All kinds of private and public buyers have been taken, so do all of the research you can, and definitely don't buy your car in a back alley somewhere – the FBI got that much right! Hot tip, Jan.

Have you ever suffered an automobile-related theft? Take our poll after the jump!

[Source: CNN]



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  • 36 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      All the work involved in this, they could have figured out a way to make money legitimately. F people who take advantage of those that work for a living.

      As far as having your car broken into, I am one of maybe 3 people in my neighborhood that actually puts cars in his garage. At a homeowners meeting someone complained about their car being broken into - wonder what they keep in their garage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        " All the work involved in this, they could have figured out a way to make money legitimately. F people who take advantage of those that work for a living. "

        It is not a job. It is a hobby! :-)
      • 5 Years Ago
      Buyer beware.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Reading this makes me weary even more of the "side lots". Yea, they probably are cars that were in accidents but still have a clean title, had some BS work done to it, and is being resold, or has high miles with a engine that may blow at any moment, but to have it be a stolen identity car.. now that is downright unacceptable.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Having access to salvage auctions I see cars that have no possibility of ever getting rebuilt, having clean titles, get purchased for insane amounts of cash. And the scary part is, that most people attending the auction know exactly what is happening with these cars. But of course since our government hires "the best and brightest" that score 4.0 in college. These people have no idea what crime is until someone shows them how its done, if its written in a book.

      I cant belive this took 20 years to catch.

      And then there always is insurance fraud which is also apparent at these auctions but we wont get into that. Anyway Im done ranting.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Title Washing......Same thing that Unique Autosports went down for (retitled Mustangs with VINs from totalled Stangs).

      If the buyer gets a vehicle from a valid dealer and all proper paperwork is done, they should NOT have to flip the bill if it is a title washed vehicle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      CNN needs to grab a dictionary and look up the word "clone".

      They're not making copies of cars, they're simply moving the identity of a vehicle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I thought I was going to see an article about Chinese companies making knock-offs of other cars, that's what every other AB article with the word Clone in it is about.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Except Money Laundering as a term did start out meaning to really launder money. It was to make it look old and used, no crisp and freshly printed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Phishing isn't a real word so it's difficult to misuse it.

        Cloning has a purpose that someone decided to misappropriate.

        The term Auto Identity Theft sounds good. :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Do you also get up in arms about the term "money laundering" as well. We all know that the money isn't actually thrown in a laundry, but we all know what it means.

        In this case though, it does seem to me that they are essentially cloning cars. They are "cloning" the identity of a legit car to use for a stolen car to hide it's stolen roots. The original car is still around, hence the clone.

        Curious though, what would your alternative term be? Auto VIN reassignment?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've bought many new cars, and I wasn't able to take delivery of the car until all of that paperwork was provided. Occasionally a missing key, or a held check was allowed, but I always had to have all the documentation. Bottom line is the dealer should know what it needs to pay off a note and demand it at the time of trade-in.

        Besides, most of what you named is needed before you can even get credit approval, let alone drive off with the car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Cloning" is the term for what the thieves are doing e.g. swapping VIN#s with identical (usually out of state) vehicles.
        No, they are not creating copies of cars, but phishing scammers probably don't sit in rowboats with baited hooks next to their computers either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't get it - the guy who bought it is on the hood and punished, the guy who lost his vehicle to thieves is on the hook for paying some fees (Eric Bandholz), and what do thieves and FBI do? Split the profits?
        • 5 Years Ago
        yep
        • 5 Years Ago
        Right on Mom. If this was a just world then the dealer would be on the hook for the entire amount. After all, he's the one selling stolen merchandise. Your average customer has no way to tell whether a car is stolen but a dealer sure better know if what he's selling is legit. Maybe it's my cynicism shining through but this sounds like one of those oddball "we must protect businesses at the expense of consumers" type of law. The way it is now, if I'm a dealer then the last thing I want to discover is that one of the cars on my lot is stolen so I'd work hard looking ther other way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      We got out Cutlass stolen, the year after that, we got our 450 SEL stolen, then our LeBaron was stolen a few years later. Who in the hell is going to steal a Lebaron??? Fortunately, we got our 450 SEL back, then a few weeks later the Alternator or something went out... Had to give it away anyway...
      • 5 Years Ago
      My 240SX beater was stolen a few years back. The thief must have just taken it for a joy ride and parked it in an apartment complex about 1/2 mile from where I live. Thing is, it took the cops over a year to find it. I figured I'd never see it again, then one day out of the blue they call me up. I expected to find it trashed, but it looked just like it did the last time I saw it (minus stereo, of course).
      • 5 Years Ago
      I put yes, because my Dad got his laptop stolen once.





      tkf
        • 5 Years Ago
        Me too. I have a beater, so they actually leave the car. But I've had my car looted maybe a half-dozen times over the last 30-odd years ...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I ordered a car stereo online. Installed it one morning. Took my car in to the dealer for a tuneup later that day. Car stereo was stolen that night. Hmmm... I wonder who knew I had that stereo in my car?
        • 5 Years Ago
        My bad for putting tkf at the end...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I had my 1990 Buick Park Avenue stolen in 2002. Car was recovered but totaled and I had to pay fees to the lot where they towed it to once recovered. That really pissed me off.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought that $50,000 Gallardo in the back alley was a little sketchy! Thanks, BB!
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