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The Cloned Number Plates Trade

Cloned Number Plate Trade Described As “Wild West”

A government advisor has described the trade in cloned number plates as a “Wild West” as the number of victims increases. Innocent motorists are being targeted and wrongly accused of traffic offences. Despite strict regulations for the issue of number plates, unscrupulous dealers make it easy for criminals to get hold of illegal and cloned plates.

Offshore Number Plate Dealers Side-Step the Rules

Number plates are classed as identity documents, designed to identify a vehicle and its registered keeper. Anyone buying number plates must provide registration documents and identification to prove they are the vehicle’s owner and they are entitled to the registration number. It is illegal for a company to issue the plates without seeing the documentation.

However, some companies get around the regulations by operating from offshore locations such as Jersey, where they can be exempt from UK laws. During an investigation by The Telegraph, a journalist managed to buy six sets of number plates without the supplier making any attempt to verify the ownership of the vehicle.

Innocent Drivers Wrongly Accused

Cloned number plates can be attached to a vehicle of the same make, model and colour as the car that is entitled to display it. The first thing the rightful owner might know about it is when they receive a notification of a speeding offence or jumping a red light. But it can be much more serious if the car is wrongly connected to serious organised crime. An innocent driver can find themselves involved in a drugs or firearms motorway stop.

The problem of illegal cloned plates is growing. In April 2019, the DVLA received 656 complaints, which increased to 1,105 in March 2020. A government advisor and former assistant police chief constable described the trade in cloned number plates as a “Wild West”. He has asked the government to introduce a registration scheme for number plates, that would see them marked with a reference number or hieroglyph which would make them easier to trace.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of number plate cloning, you should contact the police. And, if you receive any fines or penalties as a result, you need to contact the issuing authority with any evidence that shows you were not in the area at the time of the offence.

Police Letting Illegal Plates Go Unpunished

In a separate investigation, Auto Express found that police forces across the country are failing to impose penalties on drivers with illegal or incorrectly displayed number plates. A motorist who is stopped for having non-compliant personalised number plates should subsequently provide evidence to the DVLA that they have changed the plates for legal ones.

If the driver fails to do so, or is stopped again later for the same offence, should be fined up to £1,000 and have their right to use the registration number rescinded. But evidence shows the police are not using their powers to help stamp out the illegal number plates.

Drivers should stay on the right side of the law and only buy plates from a well-established and DVLA registered number plate supplier such as CarReg.