Buyer Beware - BikeVAULT's Tips and Tools to help avoid buying a stolen bike! - Vault Protected

Buyer Beware - BikeVAULT's Tips and Tools to help avoid buying a stolen bike!

April 01, 2021 By Brad Kellas 4357 Stolen Bikes



There are upwards of 25,000 bikes stolen each year in Australia and only a small percentage are ever recovered. Many of the stolen bikes end up in the used bike market, where they are sold by thieves and ‘knowing handlers’ to unsuspecting purchasers.

No doubt the vast majority of used bikes for sale are genuine and belong to honest sellers with nothing to hide. The trick is being able to identify honest sellers with genuine bikes and not get stung buying a stolen bike. 


The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, is very fitting when buying a used bike in the second-hand market riddled with stolen bikes!

Conducting thorough due diligence and being aware of some common tell-tale 'red flags' (in the list below), will hopefully help you to avoid buying a stolen bike. A good plan to follow when looking for a bike is;

Assess the Advertisement

  • Check comparable advertised bikes to see the price is reasonable.
  • Conduct a Google image search of the photographs in the advertisement, to make sure they haven’t been taken from another advertisement elsewhere.
  • Check the sellers' history where available.

Search BikeVAULT and Others

  • Prior to contacting the seller search the bike make and model on BikeVAULT to see we don’t have a matching stolen bike.
  • Also, run a Google and Facebook search in case the bike is listed as stolen elsewhere.

Contacting the Seller

  • Ask questions about the bike, how long they have owned it, and where or who they purchased it from. Honest sellers should be willing to answer your questions.
  • Ask for the bike frame number and run a search on BikeVAULT to see if we have a match.

Inspecting the Bike

  • Take someone with you when you inspect the bike.
  • Check the frame serial number, ensure it is intact and hasn’t been tampered with. Confirm it is the same details as what you were previously supplied.

Purchasing the Bike

  • Request to sight ownership records and proof of identification.
  • Ask for a copy of the seller’s receipt from when they purchased the bike (if available).
  • Obtain a comprehensive receipt from the seller. Use our PDF bike receipt which you can find here: Bicycle Sale Receipt


The following are some common ‘red flags’ that may indicate the bike you are looking to buy is stolen:

  • Poorly worded or deceptive advertisement title and description. The bike title may be vague and/or spelled incorrectly, and the description of the bike may not match the photographs.
  • The advertisement photographs are stock images, or there are no images. The seller may use a stock image as the main photograph and then have real images, which may be a photograph of a stolen bike, or the photographs are skimmed from someone else's advertisement. This is common practice with stolen bike advertisements.
  • The advertisement photographs are blurred or poorly taken so it is hard to fully identify the bike.
  • The seller is reluctant to provide a phone number when you are arranging to inspect the bike. 
  • The seller wants to meet at a public place. Criminals selling stolen items don’t want you knowing where they live. Always best to check the address exists via a Google search. A common trick is to make up a street number, which in some cases may be next to a laneway or at the end of the road. Be mindful of this when you meet with the seller.
  • The price is too cheap, the seller seems excessively willing to do a quick deal or wants to swap for another item.  
  • The seller has little knowledge of the bike and the parts fitted.
  • The seller doesn’t suit the bike, e.g. it is too big or small for them, or suited for the opposite gender.
  • The seller is unwilling to provide a comprehensive receipt and provide identification.
  • The seller doesn’t have a receipt or the receipt appears manufactured. Not everyone keeps the original receipt, but if the bike is stolen they obviously won’t have a legitimate receipt.
  • The bike has part changes. It is common for thieves and black-market traders to try and disguise the bike by changing parts.
  • Seller has no prior selling history or has a history of selling many other bikes and bike parts. 
  • Frame serial number has been removed or tampered with. This is very common with stolen carbon fibre bikes.

The list of potential red flags could be endless. Our best advice is:  If the flag is waving - find another bike to buy!


The BikeVAULT Registration Sale Report is a free tool designed to highlight genuine sellers with nothing to hide, providing key bike and provenance information to aid buyers in conducting thorough due diligence, whilst potentially adding to a higher resale value, when competing against bikes with no discernible history.

  • When a member registers their bike, the property information, photographs and ownership history is recorded and date stamped in the bike logbook, as well as any future changes undertaken during its ownership.
  • When a member decides to sell their registered bike, they can simply log in to their personal VAULT and select the 'Mark For Sale' option attached to the bike and then complete the sale declaration questions and optional links to websites where they intend to advertise the bike.
  • Once submitted and approved, the bike is then searchable on the BikeVAULT website and the Sale Report URL link can be shared on buy and sell platforms, providing a simple way for purchasers to reference the report.
  • The longer a bike is registered on BikeVAULT the greater value the Sale Report provides.  For the greatest value, it is recommended that the bike is comprehensively registered with BikeVAULT from new. 
  • Once the bike is sold, the BikeVAULT registration can be transferred to the new owner, ensuring the bike's provenance remains intact.

IMPORTANT:  PropertyVAULT does not warrant the authenticity of any information or photographs in the Registration Sale Report, including the bona fides and identity of the seller and the current and any prior registered owner. The information in the Registration Sale Report should only be used as an aid when conducting due diligence.


Asset ID - Frame/Serial Number Search

Whilst reported stolen bike frame serial numbers are not publicly visible on stolen bike listing, they are searchable.  

Step 1 – Select Bike from the 'Asset Class' from the drop-down list.

Step 2 – Select the 'Search Stolen Property' option from the drop-down list.  

Step 3 – Select the 'Asset ID' option from the search criteria options - Brand/Make, Asset ID, VAULT - DATADOT ID, or PV No.  

Step 4 - Enter the Frame Serial Number and select the search button.

Search Results - The Asset ID search has wild card search parameters.  If there is a direct match frame serial number recorded, the stolen listing will display on its own.  If the search results in a partial match for one or more stolen listings, then all listings will display in the highest-ranked order.  

Brand/Make Search

Not all victims have recorded their frame serial number and thieves are also known to tamper and remove the serial number, so if you don't yield a positive result from a frame serial number search, we recommend conducting a 'Brand/Make' search.

Step 1 – Select Bike from the 'Asset Class' from the drop-down list.

Step 2 – Select the 'Search Stolen Property' from the drop-down list.  

Step 3 – Select the 'Brand/Make' from the search criteria options - Brand/Make, Asset ID, VAULT - DATADOT ID, or PV No.  

Step 4 - Enter the Brand/Make of the bike in the field provided.  If we have a corresponding Brand/Make listed as stolen, you will see corresponding matches with their matching reported stolen category Eg. 'Trek All', 'Trek Road','Trek Mountain' etc.  We recommend selecting the option 'All' first and then selecting the search button.  You may choose to refine by category if the search produces too many results.

Advanced Search - The Brand/Make search can also be refined by adding a 'Key Word' or 'Model' and restricting the search to a state or location, although we recommend doing this in a subsequent search to avoid missing a stolen entry.  


If you find a bike for sale that matches a stolen bike on BikeVAULT, report your findings via the 'MAKE A REPORT' tab on the stolen bike post.  If we don’t have a match and you still consider the bike is stolen or suspicious, contact Police on 131444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

RELATED: Learn Why you should register your bike for FREE with BikeVAULT


Join PropertyVAULT for FREE

A few happy former bike theft victims that BikeVAULT has helped!

Go to the PropertyVAULT News Page to read a sampling of 700 plus stolen bike recoveries that BikeVAULT has aided victims and police with over the past 6 years.  

Some former bike theft victims that BikeVAULT has helped to recover their bikes

Not just bikes ....BikeVAULT part of PropertyVAULT protects all assets including pets vulnerable to theft!


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