Protect Yourself: Understanding and Avoiding VIN Number Fraud

Knowledge is your best defense against scams in the world of second-hand vehicles. One of the most insidious forms of fraud in the automotive industry is VIN fraud. This deceptive practice can leave unsuspecting buyers with stolen or compromised vehicles. 

In this article, we’ll explore common VIN scams. But we’ll also explain how online services like FAXVIN can help and provide some additional tips so you don’t fall prey to these schemes.

Understanding VIN Number Fraud

VIN fraud encompasses various deceptive practices aimed at altering or misrepresenting a vehicle’s identification number. These scams often involve criminals attempting to pass off stolen vehicles as legitimate or manipulating VINs to conceal a vehicle’s true history. Two prevalent forms of VIN fraud are cloning and tampering.


Cloning occurs when a thief obtains the VIN from a legally registered vehicle and duplicates it onto a stolen or salvaged vehicle. By replicating the VIN, the criminal aims to give the stolen vehicle the appearance of legality, making it easier to sell to unsuspecting buyers.


Tampering involves altering or obliterating the VIN on a vehicle to conceal its true identity or history. This may include replacing or defacing VIN plates, altering VIN decals, or tampering with the VIN etched into the vehicle’s frame or components. By manipulating the VIN, fraudsters seek to disguise the vehicle’s past, such as its involvement in theft, salvage, or major accidents.

Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to VIN Fraud:

Before purchasing a used vehicle, one of the fastest and easiest things you can do is obtain a comprehensive vehicle history report using the vehicle’s VIN. 

Services like FAXVIN provide valuable information about a vehicle’s title history, accident records, and odometer readings. Discrepancies or inconsistencies in the vehicle’s history report may indicate potential VIN fraud. Additionally, consider these tips:

Verify VIN Placements

Inspect the vehicle for multiple VIN placements, including VIN plates on the dashboard, door frame, engine block, and other components. Ensure that these VINs match the number on the vehicle’s registration documents. Any discrepancies in VIN placements should raise red flags and warrant further investigation.

Examine VIN Etchings

Many vehicles have the VIN etched into various parts of the chassis or components as an anti-theft measure. Carefully examine these etchings to ensure they match the VIN displayed on the vehicle’s documentation. Any signs of tampering or alteration should prompt caution and further scrutiny.

Be Wary of Unrealistically Low Prices

Exercise caution when encountering vehicles offered at significantly below-market prices. While a bargain may seem enticing, it could be a red flag for potential fraud. Research the vehicle’s market value and compare it to the seller’s asking price. If the price seems too good to be true, it may indicate underlying issues, such as VIN fraud.

Consult a Professional

When in doubt, seek the expertise of a qualified mechanic, auto appraiser, or vehicle inspection service. These professionals can thoroughly assess the vehicle’s condition, VIN authenticity, and overall legitimacy before committing to a purchase.


VIN fraud poses a serious threat to consumers in the automotive market. But now you know the common VIN scams and can implement proactive measures to verify VIN authenticity and protect yourself from falling victim to fraudsters. 

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