MOTORISTS are being urged to be on guard after innocent victims have fallen foul of a logbook scam which is costing them thousands of pounds.
The con surfaced in Huddersfield after it emerged that criminals are giving false identities to stolen vehicles, then selling them privately to unsuspecting motorists.
A 37-year-old Taylor Hill man paid £7,640 for a Ford Transit van - but later discovered the logbook was a fake.
Police confiscated the van and the man lost all his money.
The victim, who asked not to be named, said: "I bought the van and the logbook seemed fine.
"A month later officers from the Serious Crime Squad turned up at my house, told me the van was stolen and towed it away, there and then.
"It seems the logbook had come from a batch of stolen ones."
The scam, vehicle cloning, means the car's documents match those of a another similar, but genuine, vehicle, to make it appear legitimate.
Criminals are falsifying V5 logbook documents to make them look real.
Victims only find out they have been conned when they send the logbook to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to register themselves as the new owner.
The previous keeper details are not the same and the DVLA knows from serial numbers if the V5 is likely to be forged.
Det Insp John Halstead, of the Drugs and Organised Crime Group, said: "Victims are paying large sums of money for what they believe are legitimate vehicles, only to be devastated when they find out later that they are stolen."
Bill Skedgell, from the DVLA, said: "This is a very real problem for honest motorists, particularly people living in the Yorkshire area, where we have detected a particularly high number of criminals using forged V5s.
"The DVLA has recently introduced a new-style registration document which will, in June next year, make the old document redundant.
"While this will eventually put a stop to the problem, we anticipate it could lead to a surge of forged V5s flooding the market in the next few months," added Mr Skedgell.
* Motorists can check V5 serial numbers with the DVLA on 0870 241 1878.
TO avoid becoming a victim of vehicle cloning, people who buy second-hand cars should:
* Ask to see the registration document before buying the car and check the serial number in the top left-hand corner of the document. If this has the prefix AP, followed by a number higher than 7360201, it is likely to be forged. Registration documents numbered from AN8854201 to AN8859600 could also be forged.
* Run a check on the vehicle and its V5 logbook with a car checking company, such as HPI, Experian or AA Car Data Check. Wait until you receive it and read through your buyer's pack thoroughly before buying the car.
* Be very wary of vehicles that are being sold for a lot less than the market value.
* Always ensure you visit the seller at home. Do not buy the vehicle in the street. If possible, ask to go inside the house, to check they genuinely live there.
* If the vehicle advertisement only offers a mobile phone number, ask for a landline phone number to contact the seller on.
* Be wary of Ford Transits, Mercedes Sprinters and Mitsubishi L200s. Criminals seem to be targeting these types of vehicles.