In Alberta, auto crimes are real – and it most often involves theft. Vehicles are stolen opportunistically by criminals and organized crime. Vehicles also enter the illegal market through fraud (dealer fraud, seller fraud, insurance fraud), cloning, or targeted occurrences of theft.

Auto crimes contribute to organized criminal activity in the province – vehicles are used to commit crimes, cloned to be less traceable, or sold fraudulently. Stolen or cloned cars can be used for drug, human, or firearm trafficking, to commit homicides, additional thefts, and other illegal activity.


In scrap metal sales paid out for all scrap metal materials turned in from recycling customers.


In assets recovered by ALERT auto & regional property crime teams throughout Alberta between 2020 and 2023.

571 Vehicles

571 vehicles recovered by ALERT auto & regional property crime team throughout Alberta between 2020 and 2023.

$80 Million

Estimated cost overall to Albertans for stolen/illegal vehicles to be replaced through insurance claims.

Alberta’s reported auto theft rate in 2018 was 545 thefts per 100,000 people – 3x higher than that of Ontario, despite a population significantly smaller. The total number of reported autothefts was 23,507 accounting for 27% of Canadian auto thefts.[1]

3x Higher

How Vehicles Become Part of



Vehicles are obtained, used and sold by criminals fraudulently. Identity theft becomes part of auto crime when an offender uses a victim's identity to register or sell a vehicle. Straw buyers purchase or rent a vehicle, report it stolen and claim insurance. It is then sold to a complicit buyer or victim who is unaware the vehicle is stolen.


In Alberta, the majority of vehicles that become part of crime are obtained via opportunistic theft. A criminal or organized crime group will commit break and enter on your home, take the keys to your vehicle, and use the vehicle to commit other crimes.

How Vehicles Become Part of



When a criminal or organized crime group wants a specific type of vehicle, they may commit a targeted vehicle theft. This vehicle will then be used to commit criminal offences such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, homicides, among others.


A cloned motor vehicle is a stolen, salvaged, or illegally acquired vehicle that has had its public VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) either replaced or altered to match that of another vehicle of the same make and model.[1] Cloned vehicles are of high value to criminals and threaten Alberta's economy, as well as your insurance costs. Cloned vehicles are proceeds of crime.


The easiest way to prevent vehicle theft that fuels organized crime is to keep your vehicle locked, and your keys secured. Although it may seem tempting to leave your car running during a quick coffee stop, warming up in the driveway, this create plausible situations for criminals to steal your car. 

You may think it’s no big deal – insurance will cover the theft. Yet, as car theft increases, the cost in insurance premiums rise for all Albertans and contribute to the greater cost of crime to society.

Watch out for common red flags when you’re purchasing a car: non-original keys, only one key or altered keys. Check the vehicle CARFAX report – does it make sense? Are there any gaps in the history? Check the VIN – does it look like it’s the original, professionally printed VIN from a large car company or does it look altered or printed in low quality?

Protecting your identity is one of the best ways to prevent fraud and keep yourself safe from unknowingly becoming involved in autocrime transactions. Learn more about how to protect your identity: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

Realistically, no one is in the business of making great deals. Ask yourself what’s hiding behind the great deal… Is it too good to be true?

A car deal is never good enough to become involved or complicit in organized criminal activity. What are you willing to lose?

Do you have concerns about a car dealer or dealership? Report concerns to AMVIC. If you are concerned about criminal activity or need immediate help, contact your nearest police detachment.

When you’re purchasing a vehicle, follow these best practices to help prevent autocrime: conduct verifications on the vehicle, seller and/or dealer. Check the VIN on CPIC and CARFAX. Make sure all transactions and identifications are traceable – don’t pay cash and check IDs. Verify authenticity of the bill of sale, and check with other provinces as to the legitimacy of the vehicle (often, VINs are cloned from another jurisdiction).

These steps are not all-encompassing. Like any area of crime, a single red flag may not indicate crime, but conducting many checks may shed light on other red flags. Conducting many checks and looking for more than one suspicious queue will give greater insight to the big picture.

Nominees & Middle Agents

Organized crime groups often leverage nominees and middle agents to facilitate vehicle movement, whether at the sale, registration, insurance step or even just for the general use of the vehicle. Nominees are complicit third party individuals who willingly lend, sell or otherwise let a criminal use their vehicle (or any other property) for illegal activities. Middle agents are used in vehicle sales and registration processes to separate the fraudulently obtained identity of the "seller" from the registry or buyer.

[1] – 2019 Provincial Auto Theft Review Committee