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Crooks may cash in on cat buyer logbook ignorance

Car thieves and fraudsters will net hundreds of thousands of pounds through selling cloned cars unless used car buyers become better informed about the introduction of the new car registration document, warns the AA.

Since June this year, car owners who tax their cars have been sent a new four-sided, white-bordered V5C registration document, also known as a logbook. It replaces the blue, two-sided V5 version.

Owners are being asked to destroy their old V5 documents on receipt of the V5C, but the AA fears that crooks will keep them to ‘legitimise’ other cars that have been stolen and cloned with false number plates and Vehicle Identification Numbers. Buyers who don't know which logbooks the cars should have will be duped, unless they match the date on a car's tax disc against the type of registration document presented by the seller.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will only tell buyers if cars have been issued with new V5C registration document once they own the vehicles and pay an enquiry fee - which is often too late with a stolen car.

Richard Williams, general manager of AA Car Checking, says: "By July 2005, every car should have a new registration document and all old V5s will be invalid. This should end the stolen logbook episode that has fuelled a surge in car cloning this year. It should also be more difficult to forge a new V5C document. However, the car cloners are still able to get hold of duplicate number plates to mask stolen cars, despite attempts in 2002 to tighten regulations on the supply of number plates."

A sample of 15 buyers, who bought cloned cars that had stolen V5 logbooks, shows how crooks exploited their rashness to hand over their money:

  • Almost all failed to check the logbook against an available warning list of serial numbers on the DVLA website
  • Seven paid well below the market value for the cars, five between 47 and 62% of the normal price
  • Three bought from private sellers who weren't the recorded on the registration documents as the keepers of the cars
  • Another three bought from "dealers", two of whom gave poorly handwritten receipts on scraps of paper, and the third signed the receipt as a private sale. Deals were struck in lay-bys and fast food restaurant car parks.
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