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Press Offices > Short Term Insurers

Centriq Insurance
Press Office Feature : The reality of vehicle cloning in South Africa

Company: Centriq Insurance
Author:Indrani Nair
Email:[email protected]
Posted:24 Apr 2015

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61 000 Cloned vehicles on our roads annually

According to estimates released by the South African Insurance Crime Bureau (SAICB), R8.5 billion worth of vehicles are stolen in SA each year.

Almost 30% of these vehicles (worth approximately R4.9 billion) make it across our borders whilst approximately R3.1 billion worth of vehicles remain behind (and get cloned) and R514 million worth of vehicles end up in local chop shops.

Surprisingly, only 39 000 vehicles reappeared in the insurance sector’s system last year, which is excellent, but a drop in the bucket considering the statistics above.

Where are the rest of the 61 000 (of the estimated 100 000) cloned vehicles on our roads?

According to the South African Police Services (SAPS) and insurance forensic investigators, a vehicle off which thieves have copied the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from a legally-owned car (and applied it to a stolen vehicle of the same make and model), is difficult to detect.

The reason for this is because everything appears to be normal at first until the vehicle is used in a crime or involved in an accident and further investigation into the identification documents of the vehicle is required.

A case in point is a 2008 Toyota Yaris T3 that was up for auction when it was deemed uneconomical to repair after being involved in an accident in 2012.

At first, everything seemed to be in order. (The Yaris was financed by a reputable financing company and insured with a well-known insurer; it also had all the “original” legal documents required.)

But when the salvaging company tried to dealer stock the vehicle in their name, they were advised that the Yaris was registered in Bloemfontein, and that the registration certificate of the Yaris which the salvaging company had in their possession, was in actual fact reported stolen by a licensing office in Gauteng.

To make a long story short, the investigating officers tracked down the legal owner of the Yaris - he resided in Mthatha and was able to prove ownership of the Yaris which he bought in Bloemfontein.

Whilst fortunate for the original owner, it had huge financial implications for the insurer and salvaging company; the insurer had already settled the claim, and the salvaging company could not put the vehicle up for auction at that stage.   

Interestingly enough, crime syndicates purchase wrecked vehicles for cloning at auctions such as the above despite the fact that salvage auctions leave a definite paper trail that can be traced back to a legit purchaser.

Other methods which syndicates use to steal the identity of a vehicle include:

  • Illegally obtaining eNatis records of vehicles that were legally exported out of the country by e.g. vehicle manufacturers or foreigners, and
  • the “hijacking” of live records and registration details of financed vehicles

This just shows what an important role data sharing (between the Financial Intelligence Centre, National Prosecuting Authority, SAPS, Assets Forfeiture Unit, Road Accident Fund, Department of Transport, financing companies, insurers and the likes) can play in the prevention and early detection of crimes like vehicle cloning in SA.

That said, however, SA still have a few hurdles to jump to achieve the above.

Data sharing is currently being curbed by the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and its strict requirements, which is why the SAICB is managing all data sharing initiatives at the moment.

As far as consumers are concerned, it is important for each and every one of us to help insurers, financing companies and relevant authorities to identify and prevent illegal activities like vehicle cloning by:

  • buying vehicles from reputable car dealers;
  • refusing to buy used vehicles without a service book / owner’s manual
  • checking that the VIN and chassis numbers of a vehicle match each other and that there are absolutely no evidence (like scratch marks) that these numbers have been tampered with
  • checking that the vehicle has two sets of keys and that the keys for the doors and the ignition correlate;
  • refusing to buy a vehicle with damage to the locks or ignition system
  • trying to avoid paying cash for a used vehicle, especially when dealing with a private seller who cannot prove that the vehicle is registered in his name and/or fails to prove his place of residence etc.

Consumers suspecting that their vehicles have been cloned or know of syndicates selling cloned vehicles can report it by contacting Centriq Insurance’s fraudline on 0860 600 767 or sending a Whatsapp to 076 921 3347 or BBM to 25CAFCE7.

Indrani Nair is Claims Specialist at Centriq Insurance

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