title washing

What Is Title Washing and VIN Cloning?


The automotive industry is full of regulations designed to protect buyers from getting a lemon. Shopping for a car has shifted toward online platforms like Salvagebid, so it’s more convenient. Indeed, buying a car sight-unseen carries several risks, so this process requires thorough research and may catch unsuspecting buyers by surprise. Title washing and VIN cloning resemble an epidemic in the USA, and average car enthusiasts still fall victims to these crimes. Forewarned is forearmed. That’s why you can learn how to avoid car title washing and VIN cloning here.

Understanding VIN Cloning

We’re starting with VIN cloning, an issue that became more common at the end of the 2000s. Defined as a criminal violation, VIN cloning is the activity of stealing the VIN of a registered and legally-owned vehicle with the purpose of its further replication on heavily damaged or stolen automobiles. Usually, criminals perceive the goal of concealing the vehicle’s history and increasing its resale value by hiding important information about its past.

car title washing

The FBI made a statement on VIN cloning when they dealt with the unbelievable case of car cloning back in 2009. Shady characters from Tampa organized a criminal ring that excelled at VIN cloning. This fraudulent scheme resulted in more than 1,000 cloned automobiles and spanned over 20 states and several countries. The total damage estimates for all parties reached $25 million. On top of that, there was terrible news for victims of these illegal actions, as they ended up with confiscated cars. Several people who weren’t guilty of committing a crime and drove a vehicle with counterfeited VIN had to prove their innocence.

How Does the Federal Government Combat VIN Cloning?

vin cloning

Such a case contributed to developing mechanisms to combat VIN cloning. The federal government established the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) to prevent criminals from stealing information about registered VIN codes. This system united all the data sent by motor vehicle departments in a safe place. As of the date of the post, 49 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia upload and update information about the VINs and titles before issuing them to the general public. To be completely sure that you are buying a vehicle without background issues, use a special VIN number decoder. In addition, it’s also possible to perform a car license plate lookup and reveal all the hidden pitfalls.

What Is Title Washing?

title washing

Title washing is another significant problem yet to be cured in the US. Indeed, it’s an act of hiding, removing, altering, or not revealing the truth about the particular vehicle. Lawbreakers may pursue different goals, but more often than not, they want to put an auto for sale and get more money than it’s worth. The problem’s core arises in the siloed standards for vehicle titling across the USA. In short, title washing is illegal in all states. Nonetheless, some have less stringent regulations and don’t recognize several title brands issued in other states. Consequently, it creates loopholes for fraudsters who want to conceal the car’s damage or history.

Is Title Washing A Common Occurrence in The USA?

car title washing

You’ll be surprised to learn that title washing is more frequent in the US than car theft. On average, 1 out of 325 cars on the American roadways can be run with a washed title. What is scarier is that the owners of these cars are unaware of this issue. The worst situation is in Mississippi, where the average is 1 out 44.6 vehicles falling victims to title washing. People are puzzled when they eventually try to sell their cars. Learning about these issues during the sale may result in spending a fortune on further litigations and juridical processes or just a loss of money.

How Does Title Washing Happen?

car title washing

Criminals have got used to taking the above mentioned loopholes in the stipulations to their advantage. They can wash the car’s history away so nobody will ever notice the flood brand (as it’s one of the most concealed damage). Still, title washing happens because thieves want to disguise the vehicle’s theft history/actual mileage/excessive wear & tear/fair number of previous owners. Department of Justice and other agencies involved in investigations recognize three possible ways of title washing:

  • registering a car with a new title in a different state,
  • altering the original title or vehicle’s paperwork,
  • or applying for/counterfeiting another title.

What States Have Less Stringent Stipulations Regarding Title Washing?

Discrepancies between different stipulations in these states account for the possibility of obtaining fraudulent title:

  • California,
  • Georgia,
  • Illinois,
  • Massachusetts,
  • Mississippi,
  • North Carolina,
  • New Jersey,
  • Virginia,
  • Tennessee,
  • Texas,
  • and Washington.

How To Prevent Yourself From Title Washing and VIN Cloning

The best way to eliminate such a possibility is to keep an eye on the vehicle history. We offer getting a ClearVIN VIN Check Report. It can help you learn what the car has seen during its history. The solution will inform you about the titles, auction sales, mileage, recalls, and more. Spending a few dollars on a VIN report may save you from spending thousands on fixing the hidden issues in the long run.

Final Words

Salvagebid is your destination if you’re looking for affordable cars. You’ll find all makes and models to fit your budget there. If you haven’t seen anything to your taste, contact our support team at +1 (360) 347-1300 (6:00 AM – 4:00 PM PST, Monday through Friday). They will be happy to find a dream car for you and will help you win it. And if you’ve found what you’ve been looking for, you’ll have to register to bid on it. Don’t forget to upload a copy of your government-issued ID, place a refundable security deposit, and choose a suitable membership. You can also reach us online for faster service.

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