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How To Switch A New VIN Number On A Vehicle

Be very careful with VIN numbers on your vehicle. There’s a crackdown happening because there’s a very high number of VIN switching going on with vehicles. This happens to be a news piece out of Nevada where there is VIN tampering happening on vehicles.

Legal Status of VIN Numbers
What is not known by a lot of people is a VIN number is considered to be a legal document. A VIN number on a vehicle, the primary VIN, is designed to be permanently affixed to that vehicle with tamperproof rivets. If you start switching VIN numbers, moving from one car to another even innocently, maybe you have a car that’s been damaged and you need another VIN number, maybe you need to restore the vehicle and take that VIN tag off, there are federal laws regarding VIN tampering or VIN switching. You’re not supposed to take a VIN number off a car even for a legitimate, seemingly honest reason.

Increased Scrutiny on VIN Alterations
Because of this, a lot of scrutiny is now being placed on any type of VIN alteration. A lot of thieves, and this article is talking about drug cartels, are switching VINs on stolen vehicles. What they do is they get a vehicle that’s stolen, or salvaged, or parts only, or for some reason is not eligible for a title. They go get another VIN number off a clean vehicle, maybe one that’s wrecked, maybe one that they just steal off a car. It’s a lot easier to steal a VIN tag than steal a whole car. So they’ll steal a VIN tag off a car. The owner may not be aware of it for weeks or months because you don’t normally look at your VIN tag. They’ll use that on another vehicle to get a title on a stolen car or a parts-only car, sell it, and make off with the money.

VIN Inspections and Verifications
Because of this, a lot of states are going to VIN inspections and verifications. In addition to looking at the VIN number, they’re looking to see how it’s attached to the vehicle, making sure it’s not just with sheet metal screws or some rivets that aren’t factory. They know how to tell the difference. If you are purchasing a vehicle, have that VIN number inspected. Have the VIN compared to other places on the car. The police know where the hidden VINs are; they can look and make sure that they’re matching with the primary.

Clarification on Terminology
Now, before we get off on a tangent, remember that when we say VIN number, I know that the ‘N’ on VIN stands for number, so VIN number is kind of an oxymoron, but that’s what a lot of people say. The reason it’s said that way is because if you just say VIN, some people don’t know that ‘N’ is number, so they don’t know that it’s a number, they don’t know what a VIN is. So VIN number is kind of a common way to say something even though it’s technically incorrect.

Advice for Buyers and Sellers
If you’re buying a vehicle or selling a vehicle, pay very close attention to that VIN. Make sure it matches, make sure it’s not been altered, and make sure that if you have any reason you need to move a VIN tag from one vehicle to another, you get good legal advice or you get good documentation for how you do that without creating liability for yourself. Technically, it’s a federal crime called VIN tampering.

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