The risk of buying an illegally cloned car is higher than ever as criminals become more sophisticated, according to vehicle-checking agency HPI.
It reports that increasing use of forged or stolen logbooks and faked Vehicle Identification Numbers makes it essential for buyers to make ever-more stringent checks.
Says HPI boss Nick Lindsay: "Nowadays, it's almost impossible to sell a stolen vehicle without changing its identity, which has led to a rise in car cloning.
"So if a used car buyer is unaware of the risks, or chooses to ignore them because it's a `dream buy`, it leaves the door wide open for cloners.
"If you buy a clone you stand to lose the car and the money you paid for it, as the stolen vehicle will be returned to its rightful owner.
"By educating consumers to conduct a vehicle history check, and proceed with caution, we can help them uncover a fake and walk away."
Essential checks include: always view the vehicle at the registered keepers address; if it`s less than 70% of the book price, beware; don't pay with large amounts of cash; and always check the logbook.
© Press Association 2009