The Vehicle Identification Number is often mounted on a cars dashboard.

An e-mail doing the rounds warning of an apparent new car-theft scam appears to be a hoax.

The email warns that car thieves write down a vehicle’s VIN number from the dashboard-mounted label visible through the windscreen, and then go to a dealership to request a duplicate key based on the VIN.

The email, which in bold letters encourages you to share this information with friends, reads: “The Car Dealer’s Parts Department will make a duplicate key from the VIN and collect payment from the thief who will return to your vehicle. He doesn’t have to break in, do any damage to the vehicle, or draw attention to himself. All he has to do is walk up to your car, insert the key and off he goes to a local chop shop with your vehicle!”

We queried this with General Motors and Chrysler, two of the car companies mentioned in the email, and they confirm that a car cannot be stolen this way.

“Any member of the public can purchase a blank key.”

According to a General Motors SA spokesperson: “They do not require a VIN number to do this and blank keys are freely available in the aftermarket, including outside the dealership network.

“However, in order to obtain the mechanical key cutting codes they would need to access a GM dealership. Our policy requires the dealer to have proof of identity and proof of ownership before they provide such information.

“Once in possession of a correctly cut key, all this will do is allow the doors to be unlocked.

“The vehicle will not start due to the integrated transponder immobiliser. The key would first need to be programmed to the vehicle, and this can only be done with specialised equipment, by a dealership, again with proof of ownership and identify etc.”

Chrysler South Africa gave a similar response and confirmed the email was a hoax.

“It would not be possible for a customer to purchase a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge blank key over the counter and allow a theft of the vehicle,” commented a spokesman for Chrysler SA. - Star Motoring