Tips to prevent car crime

Buying or selling a car




  • Make sure that the doors are locked, and that the windows and sun-roof are shut (no matter how hot the weather).

  • Park your car where it can be seen, not out of sight. At night, avoid parking in areas with little or no lighting.

  • Don't leave any belongings on display. You might know that the bag on the back seat is empty, but will the thief? One in five stolen cheques and credit cards are taken from cars.

  • If your music system is removable, take it, along with CDs & tapes (and make a note of the serial number).

  • Remove the ignition key and engage the steering lock, even when the car is parked in your own driveway or garage. If possible, lock your garage door.

  • Look for a car park that is well supervised, and preferably one that displays a 'Secured Car Park' (SCP) gold or silver emblem. For more info, visit 

  • Car-jacking - it's important to keep your doors locked and windows shut when in built-up areas - especially at traffic lights. If someone tries to pull you over for no apparent reason, drive to a police station, or an area where people are present.

  • If another car appears to be following you, do not drive home. Get the registration number and drive to a police station or area where people are present.


  • Have immobilisers and car alarms professionally fitted. Ideally, car alarms should conform to the BS 6803 standard.
    Electronic engine immobilisers prevent your vehicle from starting and are the best way to stop thieves. You should only buy security devices or services that are approved by either Thatcham ,the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre 0870 550 2006 and Vehicle Security National Helpline on 0870 5502006.

  • Have your car registration or the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etched onto your windows, windscreen, headlamps and sunroof.


  • Use a steering wheel lock every time you leave your vehicle. These are an inexpensive way of immobilising your vehicle.

  •  Locking wheel nuts are cheap, easy to fit and stop thieves from taking your wheels.

  • Reduce the liklihood of having your number plates stolen. Have them fixed in place with security fixings.
  • This is a weird one ! Keep your car keys out of sight when they are in your home. There have been many instances where keys have been taken during a burglary and then the car is also stolen.





- Cut and shut
-Car Cloning


- Car Jacking
- Forged Bankers Drafts


Before buying, check whether the car you are interested in has been reported stolen, seriously damaged or is still subject to finance. It is up to you to make sure the vehicle you want isn't stolen, if you do end up buying a stolen vehicle you could:

  • lose all your money 
  • lose the vehicle
  • inherit whatever problems the vehicle had (unpaid tickets, penalties etc). 
  • risk police interest in your actions    

Don't take a risk, follow these tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of car crime.

  • View the vehicle at the address shown on the registration document
  • Ask the seller for proof of identity - make sure the person selling the vehicle has the right to do so
  • Never buy a vehicle without a V5 registration document even if the seller says it has been sent to the DVLA for changes. Also ensure that the V5 is genuine by checking it's water mark.
  • Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) corresponds with the number on the registration document. This number can usually be found on a metal plate under the bonnet
  • If the VIN plate has been removed or tampered with, ask why.
  • Ensure you get a landline number - not just a mobile number
  • Check the locks on the car and make sure they do not differ (thieves often change locks they have damaged)
  • Check the mileage reading corresponds with the service history and past owners.
  • Check if the vehicle has been seriously damaged, recorded as stolen, or is subject to outstanding finance.
  • Check to see if there has been an extensive respray to alter the identity of the car. Look for overspary on glass and trim.
  • Be sure before you buy - if in doubt walk away

 And remember to inform the DVLA of any changes in vehicle ownership, registration details or driver details.




Cut and shuts are the most hazardous of all kinds of vehicle fraud. A cut and shut is where the remains of two or more cars have been welded together to create a 'new' vehicle.

The remains that are welded together are likely to be write-offs. For example, a vehicle with a front-end impact could see its rear being welded to a vehicle that has been rear-ended. The resulting vehicle is then resprayed and 'tarted up' to look like a genuine vehicle.

Considerable effort goes into the deception - cutting, welding, prepping, spraying, etc - but it is a deception, and there are no guarantees of structural integrity, safety, driveability, high speed handling, braking. It could be a deathtrap. It's essential, therefore, to be able to identify these vehicles on the secondhand market.

Official estimates say there could be 30,000 cut and shuts on UK roads. The problem is a vehicle history check would only pick up on outstanding finance or if a car had been a write-off.

If you are purchasing a secondhand car you should look out for the following signs as well as the normal mechanical checks you may make.


  • Cut and shuts are usually joined at the top of the rear windscreen and through the C-pillars ( the rear roof support ), and also check the roof lining.
  • Inside the car examine the middle section of the car, as this is where vehicles are commonly welded.
  • Keep an eye out for any uneven panel gaps and mismatched or varying paint shade.
  • Watch out for badly fitting or mismatched trim inside the car.
  • Look for paint colours that don't match properly - particularly on the bonnet ( under the sound proofing ) and in the spare wheel well in the boot.
  • Check for faint traces of paint spray on door handles and any spillage on the window seals.
  • Never view a car in the rain or poor light. It's harder to spot those important obvious flaws.
  • Find the car's VIN number. This is normally in the engine compartment. Does it correspond with what appears on the paperwork?
  • Look at the service history and past MoT certificates if available, and question any unexplained gaps.
  • Be wary of extremely cheap cars - if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.


As you can see it is quite a list for a layman. There's only one way to fully protect against cut and shuts and that is to have the car professionally inspected, and get a background report for extra peace of mind from an independent expert.


The well known organisations for vehicle inspections are the AA and RAC. Their website details are :


RAC Vehicle Examination :


 AA Vehicle Examination : 

The market leader in vehicle status checking is HPI. They are meant to check for Outstanding finance, previous damage, stolen vehicles and clocking. Their website is :



If you suspect that your vehicle is a cut and shut, contact the police immediately. Keeping hold of it or trying to sell it on could leave you facing criminal charges - and you run the risk of driving a very unsafe vehicle.

If you have viewed a vehicle which you believe is a cut and shut, contact Trading Standards (in the case of a dealer sale) and the police immediately.

Important links
Trading Standards -
National Criminal Intelligence Service -
Metropolitan Police Fraud Alert -
Report a scammer




A 'Ringer' is a stolen car that has had its identification numbers replaced by a set from another - usually written-off - car, which effectively changes the car's identity.

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) number is presented on a small plate that is riveted under the bonnet and stamped on the car's floor pan. In addition, the VIN number will sometimes appear in the door pillar or at the base of the windscreen.

A ringer will have these numbers removed and replaced, so look for evidence of tampering around the riveted plates and instances where the stamped VIN has been ground away and another has been added in its place.

Often ringers are processed and sold by organised criminal gangs who cover their tracks thoroughly to avoid detection, so you will have no chance of getting your money back.

If you buy a ringer, in legal terms, the car does not belong to you. This means that it will be returned to the original owner or sold as salvage, enabling the insurance company to recoup their losses.

If you suspect that your vehicle is a ringer, contact the police immediately. Keeping hold of it or trying to sell it on could leave you facing criminal charges.

If you have viewed a vehicle, which you believe is a ringer, contact Trading Standards (in the case of a dealer sale) and the police (private or dealer) immediately.




Cloning is a new car crime emerging nationwide, where criminal gangs give a stolen car - often taken during a carjacking - the identity of an existing legitimate vehicle. In one case, police discovered eight cars with the same registration number.

In 2004, 77 per cent of vehicles recovered by the police were found to be 'cloned' (Source: Lancashire Constabulary Stolen Vehicle Squad - part of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit).

There are however, steps that can be taken to avoid this particular form of car crime:

  • Organise a vehicle check and carefully follow the advice given by companies such   as HPI and Experian, and make sure it includes insurance up to £10,000.
  • Never pay cash for a vehicle - criminals selling a cloned vehicle will not take a Bankers' Draft.
  • Make sure you see the vehicle at the dealership address - not in a car park, or residential street.
  • Ensure you get a landline number from the seller - not just a mobile phone number.
  • Make sure that name and address on the vehicle registration certificate is the person you are buying it from, supported by identification.
  • If the vehicle price looks to good to be true - it probably is!





Clocking involves tampering with the vehicle's odometer to make it look as though it has covered fewer miles than it actually has.

Clocking is estimated to cost motorists around £100 million per year, so it is essential that you take steps to avoid becoming a victim.

Check that:

·       The vehicle's general appearance is in keeping with the amount of miles it has supposed to have covered

·       Wear of the interior corresponds with the mileage covered - particularly the pedal rubbers, steering wheel and drivers seat. Be cautious with these, as they can easily be replaced.

·       The instrument cluster hasn't been tampered with. Look for badly aligned odometer numbers and fingerprints inside the binnacle.

·       The mileages on previous MOT certificates and service records match up


Be aware that although digital odometers were originally introduced to try and combat clocking, they can be easily altered - often with no evidence of this happening.

A full service history is the best way of checking a mileage is genuine. Look for a book full of dealer stamps. Ideally these will be accompanied with a folder full of invoices - fake dealer stamps are available for fraudulent use. It can also be useful to contact the previous owner to find out how many miles the vehicle covered before they sold it on.

There have been cases recently of sellers clocking vehicles back when the buyer first looks at the vehicle and when they come to pick it up, they revert the odometer back to its true reading. In the light of this, check that the mileage is the same between viewing the vehicle and collecting it.



Never buy a vehicle without a Logbook ( also known as V5 registration document ) even if the seller says it has been sent to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for changes.

Since the DVLA's campaign encouraging buyers to examine logbooks carefully before handing over any money, vehicle documents are rapidly becoming a target for thieves. This is due to the fact that they will find it harder to sell the vehicle on without the logbook.

Always keep your logbook in a safe place, and be especially cautious when a potential buyer views your vehicle. If the logbook is stolen along with your vehicle, it can be difficult to prove or disprove ownership.

The DVLA has urged car buyers to check the serial number on the top right hand corner of the V5C registration certificate.

If it bears the prefix BG and falls within the range BG 9167501 to BG 9190500, the certificate may be stolen and the DVLA have advised motorists not to purchase the vehicle.

These certificates have a different background colour on the Notification of Permanent Export (V5C/4) tear off slip on the second page, which looks mauve on the front and pink on the reverse. On legitimate documents they should be mauve on both sides.

Indications are that there are several hundred of these stolen documents in circulation. These V5C certificates may be accompanying stolen vehicles which may also have had their identity changed to match that of a legitimate vehicle. They may also accompany stolen vehicles that are not cloned.

Another batch of blank logbooks have been stolen, which could accompany the sale of a stolen vehicle. They fall between the following ranges:

AP 8022601 to AP 8024400

AP 9424801 to AP 9426600

AP 9430201 to AP 9432000

AP 9435601 to AP 9437400

AP 9448201 to AP 9450000

AP 9435601 to AP 9437400

AN 8854201 to AN 8856000

AN 8857801 to AN 8859600

AN 8856001 to AN 8857800


Hold the registration certificate up to the light - the DVLA watermark should be contained within the layers of paper; reassure yourself that a fraudulent watermark has not been merely printed onto the surface of the paper.

If you are offered a car with one of the previously mentioned certificate numbers or if the watermark looks false you should not purchase the vehicle and inform the police or contact the DVLA. The fraudulent forms will be discovered when a new owner tries to register the vehicle.

Members of the public can check whether a certificate is genuine, prior to the purchase of a vehicle by calling DVLA's helpline on 0870 241 1878

If you see anything unusual or suspicious, call the police immediately. In an emergency dial 999.




Car jacking is perhaps one of the most dangerous things that can happen when selling a vehicle. This is because a sale of a vehicle relies on a certain amount of trust, which criminals can exploit. With car security systems getting more sophisticated, thieves are starting to attack the weakest link in the system - the driver. Car jackings in the street, at traffic lights or in petrol stations may make the newspapers, but be aware that car jackers can strike when coming to view your vehicle.

Unfortunately there is little that you can do to stop yourself falling victim to a determined thief, but the following may help:

• Always meet the buyer at a location of your choosing - thieves have been known to trap sellers in unfamiliar  locations.

• Make sure you have someone with you - a lone seller is far easier prey than two or three of you.

• Do not have the logbook readily available in a public place.

• If you do become a victim, surrender the keys and call the police as soon as possible. Do not challenge them.



Vehicle sellers should be aware of the possibility of receiving forged bankers drafts when selling their vehicles. Sellers have received what they thought were genuine bankers drafts only to be informed by their banks days later that the draft was forged. The money is then stripped from their account potentially leaving the seller out of pocket if they have already released the vehicle.

Forged bankers drafts can look genuine, with authentic looking watermarks and bank branch stamps on them, so sellers should not release vehicles until they've had firm confirmation from their bank that they can withdraw funds safely on the cheque (check with your own account holding branch for details). Criminals can try to obtain vehicles with fraudulent drafts relying on the sellers perception that drafts are as good as cash, but banks will not honour fraudulent drafts or drafts that cannot be cleared through lack of funds. Do not release your vehicle until you have had confirmation from your own bank that the bank draft is genuine and has been paid by the bank issuing the bank draft. Ask your bank whether the draft has been 'given value' rather than 'cleared' as it seems there is a difference between drafts being cleared and funds being in the account. Be particularly wary of potential buyers who view your vehicle after the banks have closed (Friday or Saturday afternoon or Sunday) and produce a bank draft already made out for the full asking price. Don't be pressured into letting the vehicle go - a genuine buyer will not mind waiting until the draft has cleared.


All of the information on this website has been provided in good faith. In no way can we guarantee that you will remove or reduce the liklihood of having any problems with a vehicle purchase or sale.

This site does not endorse any of the companies mentioned or their products and services. Their websites are provided for information only.