2 May 2006

Collector Car Caught in Insurance Scam

Have you heard the advice that you should tape over the VIN tag on the dashboard of your modern car to prevent a thief from taking the number to a dealer to have keys made? Well, after a recent incident in Washington state, we may all be taping over VIN plates on our collector cars too.

A car collector was watching television recently when a picture of his classic Chevy Woodie appeared on-screen. When the reporter announced that the car was involved in an alleged insurance scam and murder investigation, the collector and his wife were shocked.

Police believe that a man (who they have identified) probably took photos of the owner's Chevy station wagon at an old-car show last summer. Apparently, the man then obtained a title to a similar rusted-out vehicle and bought a $60,000 insurance policy, using the photos of the show car to document his policy.

Taping over the VIN seems to be a good idea in today's world. It might not have stopped this incident but it might have slowed it enough to where someone would have noticed. With cars from at least the 1970s and newer, you can read the VIN through the glass. And you can take this number to a dealer and get a key made. I don't know if every dealer would do it, but some do.

On older cars, the numbers may also be stamped on the frame, on the seat frame, on the engine, on the door jamb or on the firewall. Masking the numbers would be one step toward improved security.

John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.

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