Canadian Underwriter

Edmonton Police recover recreational equipment in false vehicle identification number scheme

July 18, 2014   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) announced Thursday it has recovered more than $863,000 worth of travel trailers and other allegedly stolen property after an investigation into false vehicle identification numbers, in which the Insurance Bureau of Canada provided help.

“Police were able to identify the original owners and return the property to them, however many innocent buyers are now out significant amounts of money,” EPS stated in a press release.

Edmonton’s city police are advising people interested in buying used vehicles to consider online services such as CARFAX and CARPROOF. EPS also warned, in a buyer’s guide for used vehicles on its website, that a vehicle information report generated by the province’s Alberta Registries service will not indicate whether a vehicle is stolen.

But if a prospective buyer checks the VIN with the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), that “will tell you to contact police if there’s something wrong with the VIN,” EPS added.

The trailers and recreational equipment that EPS recovered were “allegedly stolen and resold to unsuspecting buyers across Western Canada,” EPS stated.

In October 2013, EPS said, its officers recovered $198,300 worth of items, including a Ford F350 truck, an Custom Weld Viper 2 jet boat and a Gateway boat trailer.  Then the EPS auto theft unit “began a complex investigation” with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Saskatoon Police Service and the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

As a result, investigators “uncovered a suspected fraudulent registration scheme involving stolen recreational vehicles that stretched across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia from spring through summer 2013,” EPS reported. “In most cases, trailers and equipment were given false vehicle identification numbers and registered using counterfeit bills of sale before being sold through online classifieds such as kijiji.  Buyers would then respond to the ads and arrange to purchase the recreational equipment.”

As a result of the investigation, EPS said July 17, EPS “recovered an estimated $664,830 in additional stolen property.” Those items included 11 travel trailers, three enclosed trailers, two fifth wheels, one utility trailer, two boat trailers and one jet boat.

In its buyer’s guide for used vehicles, EPS recommended prospective buyers run the VIN through a Google search to see if it is listed for sale in another province or country, “indicating the possibility of a clone.”

EPS also recommends that used vehicle buyers: ask for proof of ownership and photo ID from the seller, and compare the seller’s photo ID to the name on the vehicle registration document; compare the VIN on the door to the public VIN; compare the VIN on the dash to the one found on the registration; be suspicious if the seller demands cash; complete any cash transactions at a financial institution; and retain original copies if the bill of sale and registrations.

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