After a lorry load of V5C logbooks were stolen in 2006, the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has finally decided it’s time to update their registration certificates. But will this solve the problem?
We all know to be wary and ask questions when buying a used car. How much to spend? Will it still be running in a few months’ time? But these issues will be the least of your worries if you end up with a cloned car.
Car thieves are more professional than ever, and one of their newest tricks will go down as the most serious.
What is car cloning?
A car is stolen, wiped of its identifying marks and then sold on. It’ll pass most security checks because the accompanying documents they hand out are 100% real. Plus, all the numbers match official records because they are details of a real car.
So there’s no way of knowing the provenance, mileage or indeed any details of a cloned car. If you end up with one, it’s highly likely you’ll end up losing it (and the money you paid for it) if the police recover it. Not a pleasant thought.
Considering cloning is a massive underworld business, it’s strange that it has its roots in a single event – the theft of a lorry load of V5C certificates (or car logbooks). Yep, the very document most people (incorrectly) regard as a car’s seal of authenticity.
That happened in 2006, and the DVLA is finally set to issue redesigned certificates. Thankfully, the new red version makes clear that the certificate is not proof of ownership of a car.
The police unit investigating the theft has retrieved 1,400 cloned cars worth £16 million since 2008. That’s good business, but a drop in the water compared with the 400,000 logbooks it estimates were stolen. In fact, the serial numbers highlighted as suspect by the DVLA indicate as many as 2.2 million certificates could have gone missing.
New anti-fraud measures
So it’s great that steps are being taken to stop this element of the car cloning problem. Anti-fraud measures on the new certificates include heat-sensitive ink, watermarks and a printing process that makes it easier to identify tampering.
But this all comes a little too late. Since the theft, thousands of people have been stung by car cloners and left out of pocket. In my view, the DVLA has some serious questions to answer about why it’s only acting now.
Police estimate that the ‘legacy’ of the forged documents will last around four years at least. In the meantime, buyers are advised to thoroughly check all the details of any car, especially if it has a V5C serial number starting with BG or BI.
Will this fix the problem?
But what happens if another load of the new certificates gets stolen? With a single stolen V5C trading on the black market for around £500, there’s plenty of motivation for crooks to risk being caught out.
We all need to be aware that every car should have a new-look logbook by August 2012. If the move isn’t publicised properly, people will still end up being duped by crooks selling cars with the old, blue, V5C. Organised criminals aren’t the type to give up without a fight.