Thieves are stealing identification numbers of luxury cars and sport-utility vehicles to put them on stolen automobiles, laundering the hot cars so they won’t be easily traced, says USA Today. Stolen vehicles with legitimate IDs are easier to register at state motor vehicle departments. Since last July, 600 vehicles with duplicated vehicle identification numbers (VINs) have been seized, says Ivan Blackman of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. There have been at least 10 arrests since January in connection with VIN thievery.
Thieves troll through mall parking lots, car dealer showrooms, and Internet auction sites seeking identification numbers belonging to cars that are similar in make, model and year to recently stolen vehicles. The scams have turned car theft “from a street crime into a white-collar crime,” says Dennis Schulkins, a State Farm insurance claim consultant. Many cars with altered VINs are sold to other criminals. Unsuspecting auto auction houses, car dealers, nd consumers also have been duped; cars bought from reputable dealers might eventually be tracked down by police as a stolen car.