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Security Part 10: Motorcycle VIN Tampering and Registration

One of the key aspects of motorcycle theft is the alteration or removal of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the forging of registration documents. Thieves resort to these tactics to disguise the stolen motorcycle’s identity, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the bike and return it to its rightful owner.

VIN tampering involves either physically altering or removing the VIN plate or engraving on a stolen motorcycle. Thieves may grind, file, or scratch off the original VIN and replace it with a fake one or swap it with a VIN from a legally owned motorcycle of the same make and model. This process, known as “cloning,” creates an identical twin of a legitimate motorcycle with the same VIN. As a result, tracing the stolen bike becomes a challenging task for law enforcement agencies.

Forging registration documents is another method thieves use to pass off a stolen motorcycle as a legitimate one. They create counterfeit ownership papers or manipulate existing documents to match the altered or fake VIN. This deception makes it harder for potential buyers to recognize that the motorcycle is stolen and increases the likelihood of the thief successfully selling the stolen bike.

As a motorcycle owner or prospective buyer, it is crucial to be aware of these tactics to protect yourself from becoming a victim of motorcycle theft or inadvertently purchasing a stolen bike. Here are a few tips to help you stay vigilant:

  • Inspect the VIN: Before purchasing a used motorcycle, carefully inspect the VIN plate or engraving for any signs of tampering, such as scratches, irregularities, or uneven surfaces. The VIN should be clearly visible and free of any signs of alteration.
  • Verify the VIN and registration: Cross-check the VIN on the motorcycle with the registration documents to ensure they match. In addition, run the VIN through a national database, like the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) VINCheck, to confirm that the motorcycle is not reported as stolen.
  • Ask for maintenance records: Request maintenance records or receipts from the seller, which should also include the motorcycle’s VIN. This information can help verify the bike’s history and ownership.
  • Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true: If a motorcycle is being sold at a significantly lower price than its market value, it could be a red flag. Always research the average price for the make and model you’re interested in and be cautious of unusually low-priced deals.

By being aware of VIN tampering and forged registration documents, you can protect yourself from becoming involved in motorcycle theft and contribute to the fight against this widespread criminal activity.