Scammer claims ‘abandoned’ vehicles using copied VIN numbers, DMV warns

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is warning that cars are being targeted as part of a scam to steal people’s vehicles. 

Police in Richmond say a man is copying VIN numbers from cars in the Fan and Museum Districts. He then reports them to the DMV as abandoned on his property.

If the true owner doesn’t respond to an ensuing letter from the DMV, the suspect takes the new car title and has a key made. 

“He did target certain vehicles such as BMW, Kia and Mini Cooper,” said Captain Alexandra Davila with Richmond Police. “Those are actually dealerships that allow someone to get keys rekeyed without the vehicle actually having to be physically present.”

The DMV website says if the owner of a car doesn’t reply to an abandonment letter, the person who made the complaint can take ownership.

21 days after the official filing, that person can title, sell or have the car demolished.

Police believe the scam has been going on for weeks.

“It has been going on for approximately a month now,” Davila said. “But like I said, there have been many vehicles that have come to light in the past few months. We’re actually unsure how far it may go back.”

Police told 8News they do have a person of interest, though no arrest has been made.

If you’re the victim of a crime like this, contact police and the DMV to report an inaccurate application.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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