A daily newspaper has reported that a nationwide vehicle duplication syndicate may have "cloned" thousands of cars, down to the last identification digit on the engine and chassis numbers, currently on South Africa's roads.

A daily newspaper has reported that a nationwide vehicle duplication syndicate may have "cloned" thousands of cars, down to the last identification digit on the engine and chassis numbers, currently on South Africa's roads.

According to the , the scam has frustrated licensing authorities, police and transport officials as more than a few motorists are being told that the vehicles they thought were theirs are actually registered in the name of someone else.

When a vehicle is stolen, the various identity plates - on the engine, chassis and windows - are filed off. If a such stolen car is recovered by the police, its owner is instructed to visit his or her local motor licensing bureau to obtain new engine and chassis numbers.

The duplication syndicate, which has operatives allegedly working within the motor licensing bureau and the police force, reportedly obtains copies of the owner's new engine and chassis numbers.

Armed with these essential digits, the syndicate dispatches car thieves to steal a vehicle similar to the owner's car. They then stamp the stolen vehicle with the owner's engine and chassis numbers before registering it and selling it to an unsuspecting motorist, who in turn registers the newly bought car in his or her own name.

The owner will discover that the car he or she is driving does not belong to them when they apply for a new vehicle licence a year later.

Last year, a source in the KwaZulu-Natal Department told CARtoday.com: “Many cars already have a new owner before they are even hijacked. For example, someone may put in an order for a particular car, the syndicate consults their contact at a centre, who searches for a car that fits the requirements and often also gives the address of the car owner as well. The syndicate then waits for the motorist at his home and hijacks the car. This explains why many victims are often hijacked in their own driveways”.

Our informant added that motorists should also ensure that their service logbooks were in a safe place. “Sometimes they steal the logbooks, which have all the details of your car, in order to register a similar, but stolen car. They then use the details of your car to do so.

Detectives from the vehicle inspection unit (VIU) along with members of the motor licensing investigation unit and the Durban Metro Police are trying to trace hundreds of duplicated vehicles that are being driven on Durban's roads.

Original article from Car