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Car thieves in Boston discover cloning

November 22, 2010
Luxury car cloning, a new twist on identity fraud, is accelerating in Boston, where the number of vehicles stolen in the first half of the year, 2,581, has otherwise dropped to a 40-year low. To clone, a thief writes down the one-of-a-kind Vehicle Identification Number off a parked car. He then applies those same digits to a phony VIN plate that's attached to an identical vehicle stolen in a different state. A few counterfeit documents later, the cloned car is put up for private sale in the legitimate used-car market, with the buyer none the wiser until the cops come knocking. "It's stolen, so we seize the car," said Boston Police Sgt. Kenneth Lamb, "and if the buyer can't locate the person who sold it to him-and many times he can't-he's kind of out of luck." The VIN of one Mercedes-Benz parked in Boston was plagiarized, leaving investigators seeing double when the car's clone turned up in Georgia. Since January, Lamb said Boston police and state troopers have recovered at least a dozen cloned cars in Massachusetts, including BMWs, Cadillacs and Lexuses. Nationally, white vehicles attract the most thieves. "They can be repainted most easily," explained Ed Sparkman, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.