Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 13th July 2010

A worrying increase in the number of “cloned” motorcycles has been highlighted following the broadcast of a BBC documentary last week.

Vehicle check service HPI has revealed that the “cloning” of stolen motorcycles by criminals has increased, according to its own data and information from the Metropolitan Police Stolen Vehicle Unit.

The claim comes after the airing of a BBC “Fake Britain” documentary which highlighted the problem of cloned vehicles, in particular cars, although HPI claims that criminals are now changing tactics.

Cloning is considered to be the “identity fraud” of the vehicle world, with criminals stealing a vehicle and giving the identity of a similar vehicle that is legally on the road. Changes are made to the 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and stolen number plates and V5 documents are used to give the impression that the vehicle’s identity is legitimate.

Last summer, the Metropolitan Police recovered some 126 bikes, with many others having been identified. Most of these ended up being bought innocently by people unaware they were potentially riding a stolen motorcycle. Riders who have their motorcycle seized often have little recourse available to them.

“Whilst cars have been the predominant target for cloners, motorcycles have now also become a prime target,” said Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI.  ”The small size and relatively low security of motorcycles makes them an easier target for thieves, who can simply pick them up and put them in the back of a van.  As the Metropolitan Police highlighted, criminals are seemingly taking less care when cloning a motorcycle compared to a car. In most cases the engine numbers have been crudely filed down and a new number imprinted over the top, leaving the original easily spotted.

“Although a vehicle history check cannot directly tell a buyer if a bike or car is a clone, a buyer can use the HPI Check to help look for the tell tale signs that the vehicle is not legitimate.

“Used bike buyers need to be aware that they are just as at risk from vehicle fraud as car buyers, perhaps even more so due to the relative ease of bike theft.”