Calgary police deal weekly with vehicle VIN cloning


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Cops liken black market crime to identity theft

Humans are not the only victims of identity theft.

Cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and bobcats can also all have their personal information stolen through VIN cloning.

Kristie Verheul
Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Kristie Verheul is with the Economic Crime Unit. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Thieves copy the vehicle identification number, or VIN, from a legally registered car and attach it to a stolen vehicle.

“A VIN number is a unique identifier for a vehicle, that you can liken to a fingerprint for the vehicle,” said Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Kristie Verheul.

She said the Economic Crime Unit deals with one or two reports of cloned vehicles every week.

“It is a very lucrative business — Vehicles as high as $50,000 a piece being cloned.”

Beware of Online Deals

“Unfortunately once they’re deemed to be cloned, those vehicles are seized and taken away from that victim,” said Verheul.

Here’s how she recommends you protect yourself from a bad deal:

  • Be leery of cars being sold personally through online advertisements
  • Before finalizing the deal, obtain a photocopy of the seller’s ID
  • Examine the VIN and look to see if it’s been tampered with. It can be found on the dashboard below the windshield or on the driver-side door frame.
  • Check the VIN on the Canadian Police Information Centre website
  • Use the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s free VIN verification service to check if the vehicle was stolen or written off
  • Have a vehicle information report done at an Alberta registry office

Vehicle theft on the rise

Verheul said overall, vehicle theft in Calgary is on the rise.

She said every month, about 100 vehicles are reported missing in the city.

Of that, about 20 per cent are unrecovered — meaning they could be getting cloned and sold in other jurisdictions.

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Edmonton police warn about car cloning0:33

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