Vehicle Identification Number

Vehicle identification number (VIN) This is the number usually found on the dashboard of a vehicle on the driver's side or on the door of the vehicle on the driver's side. It is usually listed on the vehicle registration and title. The VIN is a combination of letters and numbers 17 characters in length that can be used to identify the make, model, and year of a car. Vehicles built prior to 1980 can have less then 17 digits.

VIN switching is a common technique used by car thieves to disguise the identity of a stolen car. The VIN of the stolen vehicle is replaced with the VIN from a legitimate vehicle, one that is not registered as stolen. The criminal then sells the stolen vehicle with this new VIN. Often, criminals will also develop false registration papers for the vehicle.

You can verify the status of a vehicle by checking with your local registry office before buying a used vehicle. Unfortunately you cannot always protect yourself from purchasing a vehicle which might later be determined to be stolen goods. The vehicle would then be returned to the original owner or the insurance company who paid for it in a claim situation.