Enhancing car buyer protection amidst a vehicle theft epidemic

Published On
March 4, 2024

Enhancing car buyer protection amidst a vehicle theft epidemic

The prevalence of vehicle theft and fraud has surged to crisis levels within the province. Ontario witnessed a staggering 31 per cent increase in car thefts during the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Understanding re-VINning and the role it plays in auto theft

Although approximately 50 per cent of stolen vehicles in Ontario are exported, the remaining vehicles frequently re-enter the motor vehicle sales market within the province, often re-VINned and sold to unsuspecting buyers or traded in at unsuspecting dealerships.

Re-VINning involves fraudulently altering a vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and substituting it with another VIN to create a false vehicle identity. Criminals often resort to re-VINning to conceal the true identity of the vehicle and the stolen status. The new VIN may either be entirely fabricated or belong to a different vehicle.

Protective measures

The foremost step in safeguarding oneself against automotive vehicle sales fraud is to purchase from a registered dealer. Car buyers possess essential rights under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and Consumer Protection Act when buying from a registered dealer. These dealers can be searched and verified on OMVIC’s website. It’s important to note that such rights and protections do not extend to private transactions, purchases from unregistered dealers, or out-of-province sources.

Obtaining a CarFax report is strongly recommended to gain comprehensive insight into the vehicle’s history. Upon acquiring the CarFax report, it’s crucial to verify that the information provided aligns with what the seller discloses.

Buyers are also advised to obtain a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) when purchasing a used vehicle. A UVIP provides ownership history, lien information, and historical odometer readings. By law, a private seller must provide a UVIP, and buyers should ensure that all pages are provided.

Another layer of protection is to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed mechanic whom you trust. A mechanic may identify problems undisclosed by the seller. If the seller resists such an inspection, it’s advisable to walk away.

What to do if you’ve unknowingly purchased a re-VINned vehicle

If a buyer discovers that they have unknowingly purchased a stolen vehicle from a registered dealer, they may apply to OMVIC’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund under certain conditions, including the motor vehicle must be seized by law enforcement or lawfully by a creditor (not the consumer), and the vehicle will not be returned.

Unfortunately, individuals who purchase vehicles privately do not have access to this fund, underscoring the importance of buying from a registered dealer to ensure protection against potential pitfalls.

Furthermore, some vehicles may have been stolen and later recovered at some point in their history. In such cases, registered dealers are mandated by the MVDA to disclose this information to consumers. However, failure to make this disclosure does not automatically grant consumers access to the compensation fund.


The surge in stolen vehicles in Ontario necessitates heightened consumer awareness and proactive measures. Opting to purchase vehicles from registered dealers not only ensures safer transactions but also provides recourse in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as unwittingly purchasing a stolen vehicle. This approach offers peace of mind to vehicle buyers throughout the province.

To help combat illegal motor vehicle sales and activity, members of the public with information about motor vehicle theft and sales are encouraged to make an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers. Select “OMVIC” from the offense type drop-down menu for tips regarding illegal vehicle sales and activity,

To report an illegal vehicle seller, members of the public can also call our curbsider hotline at 1-888-NO-CURBS (662-8727) or submit a tip via email. Please note that when filing a complaint through our anti-curbsider hotline or email, your identity will not be anonymous.