Law enforcement agencies across the province are teaming up with the provincial government to find ways to prevent or, at the very least, raise more red flags when it comes to fraudulent registration of stolen vehicles in the province.

Detailing the successful bust of a vehicle identification number (VIN) cloning operation in the city, auto theft unit Det. Mark Kassian said last week that Alberta’s privatized system of vehicle registration is not as robust compared to the provincially-run systems in neighbouring Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

The Edmonton Police Service is one of several agencies including the RCMP, Calgary Police Service, Service Alberta and Alberta Transportation now part of a provincial auto theft working group.

That group is “exploring opportunities for improvements to policies and systems that could help mitigate VIN cloning and provide greater protection for vehicle owners and buyers,” said government spokesperson Lauren Arscott.

At the point of registration in Alberta, the Motor Vehicle System (MOVES) uses a VIN verification application to ensure integrity of the VIN as declared by the vehicle manufacturer, Arscott said.

Used vehicle VIN’s that are new to Alberta are also checked against data shared across all Canadian jurisdictions, Arscott said.

For first-time used vehicles, MOVES sends the VIN to the RCMP for a check against the stolen vehicle database.

Two VIN validation system

Saskatchewan has employed two VIN validation systems for light vehicles entering its system, Saskatchewan Government Insurance spokesman Tyler McMurchy said Friday.

The first application is VINA VINtelligence, which edits all VINs to ensure they are legitimate.

All of the pieces of the VIN must align with what the manufacturer has advised is the VIN structure for that year, make and model of vehicle, McMurchy said.

They also use a package from the Insurance Bureau of Canada called Vehicle Information Centre of Canada which also validates the VIN for accuracy.

“This VIN package also identifies the trim packages associated to the VIN and provides the vehicle description and rate codes to be used for registration,” he said.

“Both programs in concert ensure vehicles being registered in Saskatchewan are verified for authenticity, identified correctly and appropriately described and insurance rated accordingly.”

16 charges laid

Edmonton city police this week announced it had dismantled a sophisticated cloning operation, arresting three people and seizing close to $500,000 in stolen property and drugs.

Sixteen charges have been laid so far and more are pending. Two more people are wanted in connection with the operation that centred on a home in the Hamptons area and a rented commercial bay near 121A Street and 121 Avenue.

Kassian said the group created and installed fake VINs by removing the windshields, then detaching and reapplying stickers near the dashboard and on the door frame. They also printed fraudulent Federal Safety Standards Labels.

Half of the vehicles were stolen from car dealerships here and in Calgary with key fobs that had been stolen during earlier test drives. The fake fobs had been bought over the internet and the thefts occurred after staff had gone home.

Within a week, some of the vehicles had registration documents changed three times in different cities in order to throw off authorities and cloak their illegal activities within the registry system.

Kassian said the vehicles would be stolen, “re-VINed,” registered and listed as a legitimate active vehicle in the registration system using fake bills of sale, insurance documents and forged identification.

“It’s quite concerning that they are able to infiltrate the registration system the way they are and potentially victimize innocent purchasers,” he said at the time.

Most people would never even know the difference between real and forged documents printed on high-end laser printers because they are such high quality, he said.

Kassian said he has seen scammers go as far as being able to forge the electronic signatures of sales managers on documents.

Another option, Kassian said, is for the auto industry to move away from stickers and to laser etch the VIN onto metal components in the car to make them more difficult to tamper with.

10 police tips to avoid buying a cloned/stolen vehicle:

 1. Carefully examine the public VIN plate on the dash of the vehicle

Compare the number to the one found on the registration. Also, check the manufacturer’s label on the driver’s door or the driver’s door frame beside the latch, and compare the VIN on that label with the public VIN (found on the dash). If the label is missing or is scratched out, there is a problem.

 2. Ask for proof of ownership and identification from the seller

Compare photo identification to the name on the vehicle’s registration document and make sure they are the same. Record the seller’s driver’s licence number and contact information on the bill of sale.

 3. Check the VIN on the public Canadian Police Information Centre website at

The CPIC check is free and will tell you to contact police if there’s something wrong with the VIN.

 4. Consider online services such as CARFAX or CARPROOF

Pay particular attention to a vehicle’s registration history. If the vehicle goes back and forth several times between provinces and/or states, it may be a clone. Also, look for any noted colour changes and/or odometer discrepancies.

 5. Google the VIN

If the vehicle is listed for sale in another province or country, the listing may appear on Google, indicating the possibility of a clone.

 6. Have a Vehicle Information Report (VIR) done through any registry agent

This will notify you of any liens, as well as the vehicle registration history and status within Alberta. This is NOT a stolen vehicle check.

 7. Bring a friend

It’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes to witness the transaction and corroborate any discussions with the seller.

 8. Question low sale prices

If the asking price is too good to be true, ask why. Be suspicious if the seller demands cash. It’s a good idea to complete any cash transactions at a financial institution.

 9. Keep detailed records of the transaction

Retain original copies of bills of sale (proof of ownership), vehicle registrations, service records etc. Your bill of sale is your only legal proof of ownership.

 10. Your best weapon is your brain. Use common sense and good judgment.

Don’t allow your desire to buy the vehicle to override your intuition.

Tags: Alberta auto insurance

Source: Global News