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Number Plate Cloning on the Increase

Number plate cloning is an ever-increasing problem in the UK, as criminals try to evade fines for speeding and other offences. The number of cloning offences has surged as many councils introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Congestion Charge Zone are being expanded, meaning extra charges for drivers.

A criminal will duplicate or steal number plates from a car and put them on a similar vehicle. If their car is caught offending by ANPR cameras, the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be delivered to the innocent rightful owner of the number plates, who will have no idea that they’ve been the victim of a crime until the fine drops through their letterbox. If you receive a fraudulent PCN, you can challenge the fine, but the onus is on you to prove that your car wasn’t in the vicinity at the time of the offence.

It's estimated that around 13,000 number plate cloning offences are committed each year in England and Wales, an annual increase of 9,000 since 2018. And there are signs that the situation will get much worse. With the ULEZ costing the drivers of non-compliant cars £12.50 per day and a cost of £15 per day to enter the London Congestion Charge Zone, criminals have the incentive to pay as little as £20 for a set of fake number plates.

Legitimate number plate suppliers such as CarReg are required by law to ask for proof of vehicle ownership before making a set of plates. The plates must also display the supplier’s name and postcode. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous dealers, many of which are based offshore, who completely disregard the law, making it easy for criminals to buy cloned plates.

How Do You Avoid Number Plate Cloning?

One of the easiest ways for criminals to target your car is if you post photos of it on social media websites. If the fraudsters see your number plates, they can simply have an identical set made up. If you must put pictures online, it’s easy to obscure the registration number to make you less likely to be a target.

You could also make your vehicle stand out by putting a sticker in the window that a camera will pick up. The best way to avoid being a victim of cloning is to buy personalised number plates. Criminals like to be incognito and distinctive private plates are highly unlikely to be cloned as they are too memorable.

What Happens if Your Number Plates Are Cloned?

If you receive a PCN, it should be accompanied by a photo with the date, time and place of the offence. If a car with clones of your number plates is picked up by an ANPR camera, you can use the photo as evidence that the offending vehicle doesn’t match your car.

Dashcam video and CCTV is increasingly useful for proving your vehicle was somewhere else at the time of the offence. If your car is equipped with a tracking device, it also enables you to show that your car could not have been involved in the infringement.

Of course, if you have number plates supplied by CarReg, they will have our name and postcode on them. We would never supply plates without proof that the buyer is the registered keeper of the vehicle.