Cloning Your Car: How GTA Thieves Steal Your Auto

Buying a used car can be perilous. With everything that could go wrong, it’s a wonder you got it into your driveway intact. Imagine how devastated you would be if wasn’t yours after all.

What Happens to Stolen Vehicles

GTA police have busted several major auto theft rings recently. Most stolen vehicles are luxury cars and SUVs destined for foreign countries, where they attract two to three times what Ontarians paid for them. Your family sedan may be small change, but it could be worth big profits to a thief.

Are You Buying a Clone?

Not all stolen vehicles leave Ontario. Some are sold right here in the GTA by stealing the VIN off a legitimate vehicle. Thieves copy VINs off vehicles that match the make and model of stolen or damaged vehicles they plan to sell by stalking parking lots, auto dealerships, scrap yards or the Internet. The legitimate VIN is used to make or “clone” a fake tag for the stolen or damaged auto. The duped buyer is left with a lemon and phony registration.

Reasons Not to Buy a Clone

When you buy a cloned vehicle, you’re dealing with an experienced thief. They could take not only your cash, but armed with your street address, drive off with your “new” vehicle too. Don’t be surprised when your auto gets repossessed and returned to the rightful owner or insurer. You’ll be out every dime you paid and your dignity. 

Guilty By Association?

Before 1983, owners of stolen vehicles were presumed to have “guilty knowledge” about the theft. Since then, police have to prove the owner not only knew the vehicle’s VIN had been altered or removed, but:

  • it happened recently
  • their account of what happened is inconsistent
  • they paid an unreasonably low amount
  • or the purchase seems underhanded or fraudulent.

11 Warning Signs to Watch For 


To avoid getting stuck with a hot vehicle:

  1. Be wary of responding to an online ad where the meeting place is remote or the seller has no fixed address, employer or phone number. Use your cell’s GPS or a dash camera to record your meeting. Make a note of surrounding businesses that may have CCTV.
  2. Check that the vehicle registration and vehicle permit match. Compare them to the seller’s name and address. 
  3. Verify the VIN is present and secure. A quick look could reveal if the plate has been repainted or numbers seem altered. 
  4. Ask who financed the vehicle — a bank, finance company or car dealership — and insured it. A followup CARFAX report or vehicle title search can verify if the information is accurate.
  5. Question why a new or late-model vehicle is up for private sale, especially if the seller tells you it is free and clear of loans or liens. Few car buyers pay cash these days.
  6. Avoid being  pressured to buy. A legit seller will welcome a vehicle inspection. A mechanic of your choice can often tell if the VIN has been altered or replaced or the car has been rebuilt using stripped or stolen parts. 
  7. Be skeptical if the price is too good. Give yourself a reality check by calling an auto dealership or comparing the vehicle to or
  8. Review the UVIP (used vehicle information package) for inconsistencies. The seller must give you a UVIP from Service Ontario to complete the sale. 
  9. Ask your insurer to check the VIN in their database. It could turn up a clone.
  10. If the vehicle is older than seven years, run a check on Ontario’s Drive Clean website to see if an emissions test has been done. Tests are required every two years and searches are free. If the VIN doesn’t show  up, it’s a clue something’s up.
  11. Look out for vehicles that have survived hurricanes, floods or wildfires and been repainted or repaired. Flood-damaged vehicles are beyond repair and uninsurable in Ontario due to potentially inoperable electrical components and mould.

Checking Vehicles Online

To check a vehicle’s VIN, go online to CARFAX supplies a vehicle history showing whether an auto is accident free or has liens against it. Reports are based on insurance company, car dealership, service shop and police records. If CARFAX doesn’t have a record of the vehicle or the VIN doesn’t match the vehicle, it could be stolen. Navigate away from the seller as fast as your feet can fly.

Get Legal Advice Before You Go to Court

Axess Law’s Ontario notary publics can witness your affidavit if you decide to sue a fraudulent seller. Online video conference appointments are available 7 days a week, day or evening, at your convenience anywhere in Ontario. Licensed notary publics can meet with you in person at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. Dial 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form to make an appointment.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s notary public services.

Photo by Gerhard G.| Pixabay.