Where Have You VIN?
Date Added: Mar. 3, 2003
A common element of urban legends is a warning of a crime that, in theory, is so simple, it's hard to imagine that nobody thought of it before. That being the case, we often give them more credit than they're worth. Like some legends, this one is based on real events, but contains more misinformation than fact.
Just heard this from a friend. Apparently car thieves have yet again found a way around the system and steal your car or truck without any effort at all.
The car thieves peer through the windshield of your car or truck, write down the VIN number from the label on the dash, go into the local dealership for that car brand and request a duplicate key for it from the VIN number.
Car dealerships make up a duplicate key from the VIN number, collect payment from the 'customer' who's really a would-be car thief for making up the duplicate key -- the car thief goes back to your vehicle, inserts the key they've just gotten and off they drive with your car or truck.
They don't have to break in, don't have to damage the vehicle and draw no attention to themselves as all they have to do is to walk up to your car, insert the key and off they go to their chop shop with your vehicle!!!
Can you believe it?
To avoid this from happening to you, simply put opaque tape (like a strip of electrical tape, duct tape or medical tape) across the VIN label located on the dash board. You can't remove the VIN number legally under most state laws, so cover it so that it can't be viewed through the windshield by a car thief.
Anyway, feel free to forward this on before some other car thief steals another car or truck like this.
If you can't trust an anonymously authored account of information obtained "from a friend," what can you trust? Like the 809 Area Code Scam, 9-0-# scam, knock-out perfume scam, and ATM scam chain letters, this one takes a real event, strips the facts and adds a liberal amount of misinformation.
In December 2002, officials in the Huntsville, Alabama area broke up a multi-state car theft ring that had employed, among other strategies, a scheme similar to the one described in the chain letter above to steal cars in at least four states. In that case, the thieves would identify a car to steal and copy the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from a label on the dash. They then used the VIN to forge documents to "prove" ownership of the vehicle. Armed with the fake title and/or registration and ID, a they go to the dealership to request a replacement key. The thieves then not only have the car and the keys, they also have a real-looking title to go with it. This strategy works well for schemes to steal valuable vehicles and resell them whole.
How common or difficult this scam may be has been the object of much debate since the chain letter above first began circulating. Individuals and investigative journalists have tried to recreate the scam, with frightening results. I've gotten several reports from folks who claim they were successful in obtaining a replacement key with nothing more than their VIN. While reports of this type of crime are not common, it is possible - and grows more likely as more people read the chain above.
The chain is absolutely right about one thing: it is illegal to remove, destroy or alter your vehicle's VIN label. The Vehicle Identification Number system was created to facilitate the return of stolen vehicles and actually serves to deter theft. You could cover it, if it makes you feel better, but be aware of these caveats:
In May, 2005, the U.S. media began reporting a new theft scheme involving VINs, this time revealing that several theft rings have have been stealing luxury cars, then trolling parking lots and new car dealerships for nearly identical vehicles and copying down their VINs. They then forge a new VIN plate for the stolen vehicle using the other car's number, making the stolen merchandise harder to identify. They create forged ownership papers and sell the hot cars to other thieves, resellers and unsuspecting consumers. While this scheme is not quite the threat to car owners as the one described in the popular e-mail chain letter above, the similarity between the two ploys will no doubt fuel its distribution.
However, the information this chain lacks, combined with the misinformation it has in abundance, make this warning virtually useless. Break this chain.
References: Snopes.com, HoaxInfo.com