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Vehicle data cleaning scams

 Published 26th April 2024
Driver Guides  General Guides 

There are many reasons why leasing your car is a good idea. The ability to avoid some of the latest scams aimed at misrepresenting a car’s history being just one. Consumers are now being advised to be wary of crash data clearing services, a type of ‘scam’ that can hide the fact a car’s airbags have been deployed in a collision.

Data experts at HPI are warning that crash data clearing is on the rise and have identified numerous instances of the service being offered by online providers for as little as £30.

Crash data clearing involves firms offering to unlock airbag modules after the airbags have gone off, potentially saving hundreds of pounds just on airbag module repair alone. Even when the airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners are replaced following an accident, the car’s airbag light will still flash; this is because the airbag module locks up, so they can’t redeploy. Online service providers are offering to reset these modules as if nothing had happened to the vehicle.

As with other car scams under UK law, the practice itself is a grey area and not technically illegal.

However, it is illegal to sell that car without disclosing any known accident or recorded damage information to the buyer or falsifying its instrumentation data and withholding that from an unsuspecting potential buyer.

Industry experts have identified a growing number of companies online offering a crash data removal service and repairing airbag modules.

Jon Clay, identification director at HPI, commented: “Once again when it comes to car scams, we have a situation where the law is very unclear. There can be legitimate reasons for resetting crash data on a vehicle if displays need to be reset once the airbags have been replaced. However, if crash data is reset, this makes it very difficult to pinpoint exactly why the airbags were deployed in the first instance, with the vehicle receiving significant damage or even being written off.”

Withholding this information could not only prove financially costly for prospective buyers, but it could also present a danger to road safety. Falsifying readings, especially with something as important as the airbags of a car, can often lead to mechanical issues and faults later down the line.

All the safety features and modules in a modern car, such as airbags, ABS and ignition, feed important information into the vehicle's central computer system. Any anomalies in the car’s data will cause the accuracy of all the safety readings to be out of sync with other records. This can make it potentially very dangerous, and in some cases it could literally be an accident waiting to happen.

Even if you do lease your car, you should still bear this in mind. Many customers enjoy the peace of mind that comes from leasing their vehicle, but that doesn’t mean they won’t also have a used car parked on the driveway as well.

Crash data clearing is just the latest in a series of unscrupulous practices to affect the motor industry ranging from clocking, cloning and, more recently, the introduction of ‘mileage blockers’, a type of scam tool introduced by fraudsters that alters a car’s true mileage reading via smartphone technology.

Checking a car for any discrepancies, such as accident data or mileage tampering comes as standard in the HPI Check. These comprehensive checks reveal some shocking statistics that can affect the value of a car, including 2205 cars being identified as write-offs, and 109 cars flagged as stolen every single day, so better safe than sorry.

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