Should you be worried about keeping your VIN number safe?

Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 2:46 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 17, 2023 at 6:25 PM EDT
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GARDEN CITY, Ga. (WTOC) - Rebecca Wilcox and her husband are trying to find the man who came to their home in the middle of the night and took a picture of their car’s VIN number.

“Having someone come to your home can really put you on edge,” said Wilcox

Wilcox took the video caught on her Blink security camera to police and filed a report. She also called her insurance company.

“I’m really thankful that we have the blink camera, because it really puts a piece of mind and catches things wouldn’t know happened during the night or day,” said Wilcox.

WTOC Investigates spoke to the police chief at the Port Wentworth Police Department. He says people might take your VIN number in order to do something called VIN flipping.

Patrick Olsen, an editor with Carfax says VIN cloning or flipping is when someone grabs the numbers from one vehicle and puts them on another in an effort to sort of hide its past and its history.

“Because the car they actually have might have tens of thousands of miles on, it may have been in many severe accidents, it may have been a flooded vehicle. These sellers want to make sure they can erase history,” said Olsen.

If you’re planning to buy a used car, According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Do a title search on the car before you buy it.
  2. If possible, ask someone from your insurance company to inspect the car.
  3. You can also check the vehicle’s VIN with government agencies or your state bureau of motor vehicles.
  4. Trust your instincts if something seems off- don’t be afraid to walk away.

You can also look up a VIN’s history here.

“It’s a rare phenomenon,” said Olsen “we hear of a handful of cases each year out of more than 40 million cars that are sold each year. So it’s very rare but for the victims obviously it’s very frustrating”.

Remember, if you buy a “cloned” vehicle, it is never really yours. If and when the VIN-switch is discovered, the car you paid for will be taken and given back to the original owner or the insurance company.

And if you’re concerned about trying to keep your VIN number safe. Olsen says, you shouldn’t be.

”I wouldn’t really worry about protecting your own vin, they are all perfectly visible from passer byers on the street but there really isn’t a risk to an owner,” said Olsen.

You can report fraud here.