What is a doppelganger car, why it appears, how to identify, check and avoid buying it

What to do if the car is a look-alike

A lot of people buy cars at the secondary market, drive them and don’t even realize that their “iron horse” has a twin car. And the question is not only about the same model and color, but very often about identical license plates, body and assembly numbers. Basically, it is possible to drive a “twin” all your life without being caught. Here, much depends on the vigilance of inspectors on the road and the luck of the owner (who often does not suspect anything). Where do such cars come from? Let’s look at a standard example. Attackers steal a car from its legal owner. The latter declares the theft, hoping for a quick catch of the criminals and the return of his favorite car. But the car thieves are also not without baggage. They drive the car somewhere on the edge of town and put it in an abandoned garage. What next? It is dangerous to drive such a car, as the State Automobile Inspection, most likely, has already announced an interception plan.

In such situation the first stop by the inspector, attempt to leave the country or re-register the car will result in arrest of the criminal and return the car to its legal owner. Naturally, the intruder is not satisfied with such scenario, and there are two options here. The first option.

Do not waste time on changing the engine and body license plates, but simply fake the documents with the existing numbers. Such a car can be easily sold at one of the car markets. If a car’s criminal history is revealed only after a few days, it will be impossible to find a seller. The reason is simple – in most cases, the attacker uses fictitious personal data. By the way, this method is too risky – there is always a risk to be caught. The second option.

To change the license plates on the body and aggregates. Naturally, it is senseless to take the numbers “out of your head” and make fake PTS. Such machinations will be revealed at once. There is a more tricky way. The information is taken from an existing car of the similar make and model (the question of color is solved simply) and the corresponding numbers are put on it.

It only remains to make a certificate of registration with the same parameters as those of the legal vehicle. So, the twin car appeared, which can be quietly driven and not be afraid of any checks. The search through the database will show that such car exists and all parameters are real. This scheme can work for quite a long time, until one of the vehicles is deregistered. After a new registration, the car gets a new plate number, and this is where the problems begin – all the other “look-alikes” are out of the SMVI database. Such cars often “pop up” when trying to sell or deregister them at the MREO, or during periodic raids on the roads to check the documents and verify the license plate numbers.

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If the car is not found in the database, that’s it – problems are guaranteed. Fraud can be revealed during the re-equipment of the car, for example, installation of HBO. Often, such work must be accompanied by changes to the vehicle data sheet, and that’s where the clone will be found. The result is transportation of the car to a impound lot and a long legal battle, which can last for several months or even years. It is sufficient to read on the Internet the reviews of numerous distressed people who found themselves in such a situation. How to prevent trouble? In order to prevent a twin car from ending up in your hands, you do not need to chase the economy. Many car owners bring trouble upon themselves, when they try to save 30-40% of the price when buying a car. Whom to blame if the risk was conscious? The question, of course, is mostly rhetorical. In order not to fall for the “bait” of malefactors, you must be attentive at all stages of the transaction and check documents. As a rule, you have to be vigilant if you choose a car.

If the owner refuses to deregister the car during the sale, under various pretexts, it should cause suspicion. Of course, executing power of attorney is quite convenient, but if the car is found, such “paper” will not be able to confirm the rights of vehicle ownership. Moreover, to prove your own innocence to swindle will not be possible either. But even with the deregistration of the car, you should be careful. Many cheaters have “their” people in the MREO, which have no problem letting the car through. And here is also good to have your acquaintance in the traffic police, who can check the car in the database and clarify all of his “background”. If you don’t know anyone, you can always turn to an expert, who will do the job for a small fee. What to do if you are already “caught”? If it happened that your car turned out to be a look-alike, and the traffic policeman found out, there are not many variants here – you will have to prove your innocence and your right of vehicle ownership in court. But you need to be prepared for serious material and time costs. Special article expenses – hire a good lawyer, who will demand, of course, a considerable remuneration for his services. The worst thing is that no one gives a guarantee of victory in court – the car may remain on the impound lot. Besides, if you manage to return the honestly purchased car, you will not be able to drive it anyway. Such “double” has only one way out – sale for parts or scrap.

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Consider another situation, when the legal purity of the car does not cause doubts (for example, you took it from a reputable car dealership still new). But suddenly it happened that on the road you saw a clone of your car – the same make, model and with the same license plates. In addition, you receive fines for violations you’ve never heard of, or subpoenas for proceedings on a particular road accident. No matter how silly it is, you still have to go to court to prove your innocence to such an episode. If the “double” is detected or there is a serious suspicion of his existence, you need to act as quickly as possible – immediately contact the traffic police with the appropriate application and demand to deal with the situation. Of course, in this case you will have to spend some time and money, but it is better than proving your right of car ownership and non-involvement into fraudulent actions. Conclusions Unfortunately, the number of counterfeiters is only growing every year. There is a statistic, according to which almost every tenth car is someone’s clone. In such situation to run into “illegal” purchase is very simple. Especially, if the transaction is conducted in the secondary market and at suspiciously low price for the car. To exclude all the unpleasant moments, you should carefully check all the documents, make examinations and refuse to buy if there are any suspicions. Remember that the car is an expensive purchase, so the hurry is unacceptable.

Doppelgänger cars: what is it and what to do if you are faced with it?

Recently, we talked about what problematic options you may encounter when buying a used car. But if those variants are more typical for right-handed cars, today we will analyze a problem that is possible when buying a car of almost any make, age and price. It is the case when the car has a “twin”. What is it, what troubles can it bring and how to struggle with it?

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The name speaks for itself: a twin is a car which copies another car. Usually the copying is complete: the make, model, color, license plates and VIN are the same as well as the car documents where the car identification number is written. Of course, such coincidences do not happen without breaking the law: a look-alike is a car with wrong numbers and false documents, usually stolen or brought from abroad “under the documents”. Sometimes there are “easier” variants, when the documents are not forged, and the car simply has the license plate of a similar registered copy. Both variants are capable of causing problems to law-abiding citizens, but the first one is fraught with more serious financial losses.

A look-alike car is capable of causing many problems. The main problem is the purchase of such car. The matter is that when you will check the look-alike before buying you will receive the data about the existing car, which looks absolutely legal, is registered and has a history in different databases of mileage, service and so on. In reality, you will be faced with a car with wrong numbers, and the fact that you will not know its real mileage, accident history and technical condition is the lesser of evils. The real problems may arise either when the car is re-registered or afterwards, when it is already in use.

If the fact of plate forgery is noticed when trying to re-register a newly purchased car, it will be sent for forensic examination. The expertise will, of course, reveal a violation, and the car will be taken away for examination, and the buyer will have to prove his innocence in the forgery of the plates and documents. And VIN forgery is a criminal offence, for which Article 326 of the RF Criminal Code prescribes a penalty from a large fine up to 2 years of imprisonment. And even if the unlucky buyer proves his innocence, he can get the car after a long trial only to be sold for parts – such a car will never get registered.

If the twin can be reregistered, it does not mean that the difficulties are over. Firstly, the owner of a “original” will receive fines for violations committed by a duplicate. And secondly, if the “original” will be sold to another region and change the license plate, the twin will soon be within the sight of the police, as he will continue to use the old plates. Other variants of detection are also possible: for instance, after deregistration of the original car the twin will also disappear from the database, and the license plate will be put on the wanted list, and after that the owner of the twin will not be able to drive for a long time.

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The third option is buying an original car with a look-alike. In this case the buyer does not risk with the car itself, since it does not have fake plates and documents. But he will receive fines from the doppelganger, and if the twin is deregistered, the original car will also be in the situation forbidding its use. In general, in case of problems you will have to prove your rightness with help of court and expertise.

We should separately mention the “easy” case when the owner of a car knowingly hangs on it fake license plates of another car in order to avoid penalties. The owner of the “original” car also finds the situation maximum unpleasant: he receives fines for violations, and in case of an accident, especially with serious consequences, he will have to prove his innocence. You can try to contest the fines, but it is not always possible to prove the fact of innocence. Therefore, in fact, the only variant of guaranteeing the elimination of a duplicate is changing the registration data of the car and getting the new numbers. Certainly, it is troublesome, but sometimes peace of mind is worth paying. And the only risk for a violator, driving with another’s numbers is to have his license revoked for six months to one year according to article 12.2 part 4 of the Administrative Offences Code.

If you bought a car, and some time later you started getting someone else’s fines or just met “your own” car with identical numbers on the road, it’s a clear sign that one of the cars is a double. The main thing in this situation is not to try to quickly resell the car to another person in the hope that he/she will not notice the fraud: if the fraud is discovered, you as the seller will have to prove your innocence and not take part in plate forgery. Trying to get your money back is not worth the risk of criminal punishment.

The only legal option is to initiate an examination and try to find the seller. If the expertise shows that you bought a double, the car will be confiscated as physical evidence, and you will have to sue the seller and declare the transaction invalid. The main problem in this case is that the person who sold the car is unlikely to be the real owner, which means that his details will not appear in contracts and other documents. So the swindler who sold the “duplicate” car can simply not be found.

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Taking into consideration the huge potential risks, you want to secure your purchase as much as possible. However, there is no specific advice about how to avoid buying a “twin” car. As it was mentioned above, the attempts to check the car in the database will give the real data about “clean” history. So you should check the car, not the data. And the advice on how to avoid buying a look-alike will be rather general.

Firstly, you should not trust the proposals of selling the car at underestimated price. All really cheap variants are usually quickly intercepted by resellers, and in general miracles in financial world are rare. So the car for a half of its market price will certainly bring problems – it can be not only a duplicate, but also a reconstructed after an accident “totaled”, “drowned”, and so on.

Secondly, don’t buy a car from a person who is not its owner. All the schemes with the “wife’s brother’s car, who went to Rwanda, but gave a copy of the passport and a power of attorney to sell it” are a way to get in trouble on a level playing field. Before buying you need to check all the data: the seller must be the owner of the car, written on the title plate, and the contract of sale should be concluded with him, so that in case of problems to sue a real person, not an abstract reseller.

Thirdly, the car at examination should be examined for authenticity of VIN and other numbers, including the engine. Of course, an expertise can only give a complete guarantee, but if it is an expensive car, you can also spend money on it.

And fourth, a good proof of the seller’s honesty will be his willingness to be present at the traffic police at the car registration. If he is sure about the car, he has nothing to hide, but the desire to get the money and leave as soon as possible is not a good sign.

At last we shall make one more remark, which cannot be called a real advice. If you want to decrease the risk of buying a double, choose rare and not very popular models of cars. Scammers are unlikely to mess with unmarketable and exclusive, so the chance to buy a “duplicate” for a gray Hyundai Solaris is much higher than for a red 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee.

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