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Common V5C scams

Your car’s registration document, or V5C, is a summary of its details and history along with its owners. It’s a print-out of what information is held on your car at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

The V5C is one of the most important documents when buying or selling a car, but it logs only who is the registered keeper – and they may be different from the legal owner. Since October 2002 it has been illegal to sell a car without a valid V5C, so don’t ever accept an excuse that it has been lost as you can apply for a replacement easily enough.

When buying a car, the registered keeper should be the person you are buying from, and the VIN, or chassis number, should be the same as the one on the car. Because the V5C is a summary of the car’s details on the DVLA database, there are a few scams that can catch you out, often when you’re buying a car.

Forged V5C

If you’ve never seen a V5C before, you might struggle to tell the difference between a genuine document and a forgery. A V5C is one A3 sheet of paper folded in half to give four A4 sides. As such it’s not difficult to photocopy a genuine document, amend it then reprint it using a decent home printer on regular paper.

However, the official paper is watermarked with lines of large text from top to bottom, repeating the letters ‘DVL’ throughout. If there’s no sign of this watermarking the registration document is a fake, so make your excuses and leave, then let the police know so they can stop somebody else being taken in.

Online checks

The DVLA offers an online service that allows you to check the key details of any car on its database . You can’t access any owner details but you can find out:

  • When the road tax expires
  • When the MOT expires
  • The date it was first registered
  • Its SORN status
  • The car’s colour
  • Its engine size
  • Its year of manufacture
  • Its CO2 emissions
  • The current vehicle tax rate

At the very least it’s worth cross-referencing this information with what’s on any V5C that’s presented to you when buying a used car. If there are any discrepancies the chances are that the V5C is a forgery.

Stolen V5Cs

The V5C is now red but it used to be blue. If the car you’re buying comes with a blue one, you need to make sure the document isn’t stolen. Around 400,000 blue V5Cs were stolen in 2006, enabling thieves to create a false identity for nicked cars; it’s a practice known as cloning.

Bearing in mind the thefts happened a decade ago you would think everything would have sorted itself out by now, but unscrupulous thieves are still using these blue registration documents, safe in the knowledge that some buyers won’t smell a rat. The serial numbers of the affected V5Cs are:

  • BG9167501 – BG9190500
  • BG9190501 – BG9214000
  • BG8407501 – BG8431000
  • BG9282001 – BG9305000
  • BG8229501 – BG9999030
  • BI2305501 – BI2800000

The stolen blue certificates have a different background colour on the Notification of Permanent Export (V5C/4) tear off slip on the second page. On legitimate documents they should be mauve on both sides but on the stolen forms they look mauve on the front and pink on the reverse.

As well as this batch of stolen forms, V5Cs can be stolen on an individual basis when a car or house is burgled. In theory these documents would be of no use to anybody but it’s quite possible that one will be presented to go with a stolen car that’s being sold on. The seller will rely on the buyer giving the V5C just a cursory glance which is why it’s essential that you check all of the details on any registration document that’s presented to you when buying a used car.

Logbook loan

Last week we told you all about logbook loans, which is when the V5C is surrendered to a money lender, as collateral against a loan. It’s possible for somebody to hand over their V5C to a lender having already applied for a duplicate document.

Because the DVLA will issue a duplicate V5C on the basis that the original has been lost, an unscrupulous buyer can get a second document, apply for a logbook loan then put their car up for sale even though they’re not entitled to.

The usual rules apply when buying any used car; be wary of anybody and anything and make as many checks as you possibly can. In this case it’s an easy one; invest in an HPI check and if the car is subject to a logbook loan this will be flagged up.

Vehicle Identity Checks

Until October 2015, if an insurance company wrote off a car the DVLA would refuse to issue a replacement V5C until the car had undergone a Vehicle Identity Check (VIC). So anybody buying a crash-damaged car wouldn’t be able to apply for a V5C in their name until they’d repaired the car to a decent standard.

Now, with the VIC scrapped, anybody can apply for a replacement V5C without the car undergoing any roadworthiness checks first, which is why you need to be very careful. Your best bet (once again) is to invest in an HPI check, which will flag up any car that’s previously been written off.

In summary…

Follow these basic checks and you should be able to avoid being taken in by a forged or stolen V5C. Trusting your instincts is always one of the best ways of being stitched up by a dodgy seller but if you’re worried in any way about buying that used car, make sure you read through our complete guide to buying a used car before committing to purchase.

Richard Dredge

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