Watch Out, Dolly — Cloning's Come to Cars

What you need to know about the latest trend in car thefts.

Here’s the next type of theft you should worry about:  Car cloning.  Fear not, car thieves have not turned into science geeks.  They’re stealing cars and replacing the V.I.N.'s and whatnot with legitimate ones from nearly identical cars.  Throw in some false documents, and you’re all set.

The state’s chapter of the Better Business Bureau is spreading the word and says law enforcement nationwide is banding together to break some major car cloning rings.

It’s an uphill battle to clear the names of those connected to a cloned car, said Paulette Scarpetti, the B.B.B.’s president.  “Owners of cloned vehicles can have their cars confiscated,” she said, “left to pay balances of the car's loan, and may be accused of a variety of traffic infractions and even participation in organized crime.”

But most notably, Connecticut is in a class with a dozen other states that are not participating in a nationwide title registering service, which the B.B.B. says could reduce insurance payments by $20 million a year.

In general, the BB.B. and F.B.I. offer these tips:

-    Get a copy of the car’s vehicle history report.
-    Always check under the hood to ensure V.I.N.’s match, and check for signs of tampering such as scratches.
-    If you are car shopping, beware of a car being sold for substantially less than comparable makes and models.
-    Look for incorrect spellings on paperwork, like vehicle titles.
-    If you think your car was cloned (for instance, you receive notice of unpaid parking tickets that aren’t yours), contact your local police.
-    Trust your intuition – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!


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