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Auto theft and fraud

The Calgary Police Service Auto Theft Unit investigates incidents where motor vehicles are stolen for profit (i.e. revinning/cloning, shipping of stolen motor vehicles overseas and chop shops).

Calgarians need to beware when buying and selling vehicles online. Fake bank drafts, accompanied by fake identification, are being used to purchase vehicles from legitimate sellers. Once the transaction is complete, and the seller has released the vehicle to a buyer, it is later determined that the bank draft was illegitimate and the seller has no way to reclaim the vehicle.

These fraudulently obtained vehicles are then being sold to new buyers. In many cases the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is altered to allow the registration of what would appear to be a legitimate sale. The offenders walk away with the funds, while the buyer is left with an illegitimate purchase that can end up being seized by authorities.

Sellers are advised to accompany buyers to a legitimate bank, observe a bank draft being ordered and to have it in their possession prior to releasing the vehicle to the buyer. Buyers are advised to inquire about the vehicle’s history of ownership and to inspect the seller’s registration documentation carefully. The public can access the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and search reported stolen vehicles by entering the VIN or licence plate of the vehicle in question.

Be wary of:

  • A vehicle that has been re-registered within six months.
  • Documentation in a name not corresponding to the ID of the seller, or a seller who refuses to provide picture ID.
  • A seller who is unable to give clear details about the vehicle’s history of ownership that can be verified (i.e. a dealership/salesman/previous owner that you can contact).
  • A seller who won’t allow you to come to their residence.
  • When conducting background research on a vehicle you find that the vehicle has been previously registered out of province or in the United States.
  • A price that is below the fair market value of the vehicle. If the price seems too good to be true it probably is.

There is no one indicator that will identify a criminal purchaser or seller, but the more red flags present, the more cautious a consumer should be.

Reasons why motor vehicles are stolen

  1. Thieves steal a motor vehicle to get from one destination to another and then abandon the vehicle.
  2. To use the motor vehicle in other crimes such as break and enters and robberies.
  3. Thieves will alter the VIN of the stolen motor vehicle and then either drive the vehicle themselves or sell the vehicle to an unsuspecting consumer.
  4. Thieves may have a similar vehicle that they want to upgrade or repair damaged parts. They may also try and sell the vehicle parts on internet sites.

How to prevent auto theft

  • Do not leave your motor vehicle running while it is unattended and the key is in the ignition.
  • Lock up your vehicle; close the windows and sunroof when the vehicle will be unattended to. If you park your vehicle in a garage, make sure the overhead garage door and pedestrian door are locked as well. Do not leave a spare key hidden inside the vehicle.
  • Consider installing an aftermarket car alarm if your vehicle is not already equipped with one.
  • Be aware of where you park. Well lit parking lots and streets with lots of vehicular and pedestrian traffic will help to deter car thieves.
  • Do not leave items in plain view in your vehicle. This includes parcels, cell phones, GPS devices, laptops, clothing or money.

If you suspect your vehicle has been stolen, confirm that it was stolen before contacting the police. In many cases a caller has simply forgotten where they had parked the vehicle or the vehicle had been towed because it was illegally parked or involved in a civil dispute. The public can call the municipal impound lot at 403-537-7111 to see if the vehicle is there. If the vehicle is legitimately stolen, call 403-266-1234 to report it and obtain a case number. Call 9-1-1 if you see your vehicle being stolen and be prepared to provide the make, model, colour and licence plate number.