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The Resteal – Stealing a Stolen Car

Drivers warned of rise in a used car selling scam called the ‘resteal’ – and it is motorists in the North of England who are most likely to fall victim.

  • ‘Resteal’ scam sees used-car buyers duped into buying a cloned vehicle
  • Days after purchase, con artists who sold it to them steal it back with a spare key

Drivers are being warned of a ‘worrying increase’ in a used-car selling scam – and experts say motorists in the North of England are the most likely to fall victim.

The ‘resteal’ is a con that sees unsuspecting second-hand car buyers purchase a cloned vehicle, only to have it stolen just days later by the very people who sold it to them, according to the motor insurance loss adjustment firm Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA).

It says criminals then move on to their next victim and repeat the dishonest trick using the same vehicle, with the identity changed yet again.

Philip Swift, a former detective and now managing director at CMA, says the resteal scam involves a combination of theft and fraud that is ‘repeated in rapid succession to devastating effect’.

He warns that criminals are using a range of tactics, including stealing the identities of genuine cars that are the same brand, model and colour as the one they’re advertising for sale, usually at a far lower price than others listed online.

Even if a buyer runs a background check on the number plate, the details of a legitimate vehicle will be shown and likely raise no red flags.

Having bought the car at what appears to be a good price, victims will find within days the vehicle has been stolen.

This is because fraudsters will follow the buyer home, only to return within days to pinch the vehicle using a spare or duplicate key.

Mr Swift says the most cases of restealing have occurred in the North of England, with specialist gangs trying to deceive motorists looking for a good deal.

‘We live in an age where technology enables a vehicle masquerading as another – same number plate, apparently correct paperwork – to be discovered with relative ease,’ he says.

‘The criminals know this, so they use fake identities and change their addresses frequently.

‘These unscrupulous crooks leave havoc in their wake, for both the innocent purchasers and the owner of the legitimate vehicle whose identity has been replicated.

‘The former will have to explain to their insurance company that their new car has been stolen, which immediately sets alarm bells ringing.

‘The latter might be merrily driving along when they are stopped and arrested – because the police understandably, though incorrectly, believe they have found a stolen car; in fact, they have detained a victim of vehicle identity theft.’

For scam artists looking to make quick money, the resteal has many advantages.

Crooks will be familiar with the car they are using as bait and therefore know the identity points which need changing.

If they know they can dupe one buyer by hiding the motor’s true identity, they expect to be successful when repeating the process by matching the vehicle to another similar car.

The CMA says it has developed software that automatically flags anything unusual linked to vehicle registration marks (VRMs).

Staff are immediately alerted to suspicious activity and will quickly inform the relevant parties