Lancashire police are warning members of the public to be particularly vigilant if considering buying a used car.
The warning comes after a spate of reports of stolen and cloned vehicles over recent weeks.
In the past fortnight, police have received six reports from people who have bought second hand cars that have been advertised on the internet that it transpires have been stolen and cloned using another vehicles’ identity.
Detective Sergeant Simon Ingham, from the Organised Vehicle Crime Team said; “This type of criminality has a huge impact on the victims who are targeted as they are often left thousands of pounds out of pocket, with no way of getting their money back.
“We would send a strong warning to people who think they can get away with cloning cars and selling them on to innocent people – you will be targeted and you will be caught and brought to justice. I would also like to reassure members of the public that Lancashire Constabulary is taking robust action against those who clone and sell stolen vehicles.
DS Ingham continued: “People should exercise great caution when buying second handcars from private sales. We are currently working very closely with organisations such as Auto Trader in order to eradicate this type of crime. My advice would be to avoid paying cash where possible, otherwise ask for and record some form of credible identification from the seller and never meet in a car park or similar type of venue in order to complete the purchase of a car.
“If purchasers are taken to a private address make sure the seller actually lives there.
A genuine seller shouldn’t object to this type of checking particularly if they want to achieve a sale. If in doubt walk away and inform the police or contact Crimestoppers. Never buy a car without a log book.
Police are also warning car owners to be extra vigilant in order to prevent their cars from being stolen through ‘car key burglaries’ – as this is quite often the first link in the car cloning chain.
Newer cars, which are often targeted for cloning, are difficult to steal so offenders are resorting to stealing keys left on show by using a hook or cane to retrieve them through an unlocked window, letterbox or cat-flap – people can prevent this by ensuring car keys are kept securely out of the way.
• Anyone with any information that could be useful to police can call Lancashire Constabulary on 08451 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.