DMV.org recommends ordering a vehicle history report, or VIN check, when buying a used car to check whether it is stolen. The VIN check contains details about the car's ownership history and previous usage, such as accidents or service records.
It may be possible to get a VIN check ordered for free through a law enforcement agency or DMV office, according to DMV.org. However, VIN checks are not foolproof, explains CARFAX . Some criminals are able to fool VIN checks by cloning the vehicle identification number, or VIN, to that of a legally registered car. With the stolen VIN, title documents can be altered to hide the car's stolen status. Even if a car is purchased in good faith, law enforcement agencies can still confiscate the vehicle and leave the duped owner making payments on the loan.
To avoid becoming the victim of VIN fraud, CARFAX recommends making sure the VINs on the dash, driver’s door sticker, car frame, title documents and service records are all the same. Always check the VIN plate on the dash for signs of tampering. On the vehicle history report, registrations in multiple states can be a warning sign. Some vehicle history companies also offer clone alerts to notify owners of a possible issue.