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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