Identity theft for vans

Article date: 8 August 2008

  • White van drivers beware, warns HPI as it confirms the rise of the ‘clone'

HPI is warning sole traders to protect themselves from the growing threat of van cloning - the vehicle equivalent of identity theft. Latest research from vehicle provenance expert, HPI, worryingly confirms that the Ford Transit van is number two in the UK's top 10 cloned vehicles. As the credit crunch takes its toll, HPI is urging sole traders shopping for a used van to take steps to avoid being taken in by what seems a great deal, but turns out to be a clone.

Criminals create a "clone" of a van by stealing the identity from another similar vehicle. They replace the number plates and VIN on their van with the stolen identity from an almost identical vehicle of the same make, model and colour.

"Criminals are opportunists and will exploit any weakness, whether it's in a vehicle's security system or its identity," explains Nick Lindsay, director of HPI. "In the war against the unscrupulous, the motor industry has worked hard to improve the quality and accuracy of the data it holds on used vehicles. Inevitably, this has made selling a stolen vehicle without changing its identity, all but impossible, hence the rise in cloning. This has not been helped by further recent news from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of suspect V5 vehicle registration documents circulating. However, despite this increase, many people are still unaware of the problem and even the police admit they don't know its true scale." 

The HPI* Check, which confirms a vehicle's history, also provides buyers with the HPI Guarantee**. This provides up to £30,000 financial reimbursement in the event of the van not being everything it seems - including a Clone. The HPI Check is the only history check in the market to provide financial compensation in the event of a clone being bought**. Analysis of HPI's claims data since 2004 has revealed that by educating consumers to arm themselves with the fullest possible level of information, the HPI Check helps them to spot a fake and walk away. 

The Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Nissan Navara are all high on the sophisticated cloner's shopping list, accounting for 11%, 5% and 4% respectively. Although premium brand cars such as the Mercedes C Class, the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4 see significant numbers of claims, white van drivers are top targets for cloners. However, it is clear to see that claims for Mercedes Sprinter, as well as the Mitsubishi L200, have dropped significantly over the last four years.

Says Nick Lindsay: "Our top 10 suggests that it is not just prestige cars, but vans that are today's work horses which offer criminals the greatest rewards. Looking at our analysis we can see that criminals seem to target one model from a particular manufacturer before moving on elsewhere.  It is not clear if this reflects market demand or if awareness and improvements to security measures influence this change.

To avoid buying a stolen or "cloned" used van buyers need to check every aspect of a vehicle's identity before parting with their cash. By following three simple steps, consumers can not only protect themselves but put a stop criminal activity...

  1. Always check the provenance of a van and double check both the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Vehicle Registration Mark (VRM). Visit for guaranteed peace of  mind.
  2. Know the van's market value. If you are paying less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle, it is probably a clone. There is rarely such a thing as a bargain.
  3. Don't pay with a substantial amount of cash, particularly if the van is costing you more than £3,000. Some cloners will take a bankers draft as part payment, because the cash part is sufficient profit without ever cashing the bankers draft. Most crooks selling cloned vans would rather walk away from a sale than take a payment that could be traced back to them.

Concludes Lindsay: "Simply checking against the VIN isn't enough and means a buyer could be leaving themselves vulnerable to cloners. In the current economic climate, sole traders blinded by a vehicle and who don't use due diligence, are putting themselves and their business at considerable risk. If you buy a clone you stand to lose the van and the money you paid for it, as the stolen vehicle will be returned to its rightful owner. By conducting an HPI Check and following our easy steps, you can avoid falling into the cloning trap."


Top 10 Cloned Vehicles  by Make and Model - 2007-2008

  1. Mercedes C Class 10%
  2. Ford Transit 8%
  3. Audi A4  8%
  4. BMW 3 Series 7%
  5. Audi TT 7%
  6. Volkswagen Golf 5%
  7. Vauxhall Vivaro 5%
  8. Land Rover 3%
  9. Peugeot 206 3%
  10. Volkswagen Passat 3%

Top 10 Cloned Vehicles by Make and Model 2004-2008

  1. Mitsubishi L200 12%
  2. Ford Transit 11%
  3. Land Rover 7%
  4. Volkswagen Golf 6%
  5. BMW 3 Series 5%
  6. Mercedes Sprinter 5%
  7. Audi TT 4%
  8. Mercedes C Class 4%
  9. Nissan Navara 4%
  10. Peugeot 206 2%

*HPI Check costs £19.99

**Subject to Terms & Conditions

For press enquiries please contact:
Margot Tomkinson, Dominic Dennis and Justine Hoadley at HSL 0208 977 9132.

Notes to editors:

About HPI
Originally established in 1938, HPI Limited is a primary source of vehicle information for the UK motor industry and motoring consumer, which since August 2004 has been owned by Norwich Union. HPI encompasses both the HPI database of all UK road registered vehicle descriptions and histories, and the National Mileage Register which holds in excess of 125 million mileage readings.

Together, HPI and NMR represent the UK's largest vehicle information source, combining and interpreting data from government agencies, industry bodies, private organisations, the police and the general public. Registering with HPI helps companies to protect their financial interests in motor vehicles and a wide range of other mobile assets. HPI Checks give purchasers instant confirmation of whether vehicles are correctly described, known to be subject to outstanding finance or serious accident damage, or recorded as stolen or "clocked".

'HPI' and the HPI logo are registered trademarks of HPI Limited. 

(1) All prices include VAT and are correct as of 1 January 2006
(2) Mileage Data is not covered by The HPI Guarantee
(3) The HPI Guarantee is subject to terms and conditions

Back to top