Avoid doppelgangers

By Tom Rayner -

General news

 24 January 2007 11:12

In this week’s MCN, available form Wednesday, January 24, 2007, we ran the story of “doppelganger” bike theft, see page 11.

MCN reader Graham Lace bought a second-hand Yamaha R1 for £4,500. An HPI check showed there was no outstanding finance, the bike was not stolen and that the VIN numbers matched those in the service manual.

However, the bike Lace bought was stolen from London in 2005. 

Thieves had found a similar silver Yamaha R1 and used its registration plate and VIN numbers to create the “doppelganger” bike.

Lace’s bike was confiscated by the Police leaving him with a £4,500 hole in his wallet and, worse still, no motorbike.

However, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim of “doppelganger” theft like Lace. Remember, buying a second-hand bike from a private seller is a great way to save some cash, so don’t let a few unscrupulous conmen spoil the experience. 

Here are MCN’s top five tips to avoid becoming their next victim.

1) LOOK for MCN Protected bikes in Bike Mart. You’ll find MCN Protected ads in Bike Mart highlighted yellow. MCN checks the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) so you can check it against the bike. We also check the bike isn’t stolen or has outstanding finance – what’s more we even throw in a 30-day warranty for real peace of mind. Visit www.motorcyclenews.com to find your next bike.

2) IF a bike isn’t MCN Protected then you can check it yourself with an HPI Check for £39.95. The service reveals stolen, written off, clocked or cloned bikes, and those with outstanding finance. However, you will still need to check the VIN number manually when you see the bike – don’t just trust the documentation which can be easily forged. Visit www.hpicheck.com

3) ALWAYS arrange to meet at the seller’s property. Meeting at a neutral location, such as a garage forecourt, makes life easier for the thieves. If nothing else, with a fixed address you’ll be able to point police in the right direction if things go awry.

4) INSIST to see the engine and frame numbers. If the seller says he would have to remove some fairing panels then explain that you cannot progress with the sale until you’ve verified the numbers – he’ll soon be reaching for the toolkit if he’s genuine.

5) IT might sound obvious but if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is. There’s always a bargain to be found for the canny buyer but something that is dramatically cheaper than all other models of a similar age should arouse suspicion. The answer might be perfectly genuine (for example, a baby or emigration) however, it’s better to be cautious than trusting if you don’t want to be a victim