How honest, innocent, motorists fell victim to selfish car cloning thieves and lost thousands of pounds
How car cloning works
Crooks have ruthlessly lined their own pockets by tricking motorists into purchasing stolen, cloned, vehicles via their eBay scam in Greater Manchester, a BBC investigation concluded. Victims have lost thousands of pounds, the cars they bought in good faith and suffered a tremendous amount of heartache.
Cloning works on a simple premise. The criminal steals a vehicle then removes evidence of its legitimate, legal, identity. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and registration number, for example. The perpetrator then replaces these elements with counterparts from another, similar, model that has not been stolen.
When, therefore, the victim gets a history check the quoted information relates to a legitimate vehicle – so the stolen equivalent looks trouble-free on paper. Furthermore, the thief creates a fraudulent paper trail. It is possible to purchase a blank service book then fill it with fictional stamps, for example.
Victims discuss heartache
Manchester-based crooks – presumably without any thought for their victims' well-being – worked via three e-Bay accounts, the BBC reported. Buyers were told to pay cash on collection only. In contrast, most eBay sales go through the auction site's online payment system to create a paper trail and accountability (PayPal).
Graham Murray, 57, is among the victims and a retired police officer. He bought a cloned Mercedes-Benz in March 2017. He stated:
"It was £17,000 just gone. I knew there was little or no chance of getting this money back – ever. The police have known about this gang since January," he added. “As a former police officer I'm absolutely disgusted. How can you have any trust in the police?"
Gordon Alexander, 55, a garage owner, fell victim too. He bought a BMW for 18,300 in January 2017. "I was absolutely gob-smacked”, he said. “I've worked hard for my money - they are scum of the earth.”
Mr Alexander added: “The man that I bought it from seemed like a genuine guy. I put my story on social media and it became clear that I am not the only one who has fallen victim. It's disgusting.”
Multiple victims for each scam
For every cloned car there are at least three victims – victims which have the right to live without a fear of crime. They include:
- Victim 1: Person that owns the stolen vehicle
- Victim 2: Person that buys the stolen vehicle
- Victim 3: Person that owns the car that has its identity cloned
Police yet to contact e-Bay
An eBay spokesman said the company has yet to be contacted by Greater Manchester Police. He confirmed, however, that the perpetrators accounts have been closed. “Cash on collection is very unusual. We ask buyers to always pay via the platform”, he claimed.