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Number Plate Crime

Man holding head number plate crime

The crime rate for the UK in 2019/2020 was 96.4 per 1000 people. 113,000 of these were motor vehicle thefts. Why would criminals want to use your vehicle to commit a crime? Quite simply, to keep themselves out the spotlight and ensuring you’re the one having to answer to the authorities. Registration plates can also be stolen if they are seen to be of high value to sell on to unsuspecting customers. In addition to this and motor vehicle theft to commit crimes, there’s been a rise in the number of cases of number plate cloning.

So what is number plate cloning?

Quite simply, a criminal creating a copy of your registration plate. It is similar to stealing your details to fraudulently get a credit card. They’re stealing your identity. They do this much for the same reason as they steal cars, to commit crimes of varying nature. Using a copy of your registration plate on a stolen car of the same brand and colour or to cover their own registration plate, they are able to anonymously commit offences using your identity. Criminals are also known to repair cars that have previously been registered as a write off and use the cloned number plate on them. The number plate on your vehicle links your vehicle to you, so this is an easy way for criminals to remove some association from themselves, leaving you being the one having to explain yourself.

What crimes have been committed using number plate cloning?

More than you think. Criminals can use your number plate to avoid: parking fines; speeding fines & associated points on their license; avoid paying road tax and insurance; get free fuel for their car; to commit even more serious acts such as burglaries.

Many oblivious and innocent car owners have been landed with hefty fines through their letterbox or an unexpected knock at the door from police officers. The Met police recorded on average 10,148 cases of Motor Vehicle Registration Plate theft per year over 2018/2019, with January being the top month for these types of thefts to occur.

When buying a used car, how do I know it hasn’t been cloned?

Firstly, visit https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/ and enter the registration number of the vehicle and will provide you with some useful information. From the registration number you can confirm the make, colour, see whether it’s taxed and if it holds a valid MOT. Past and present MOT details for a vehicle can be found at https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history.

Ask to see the V5C Vehicle Registration Certificate (also known as the log book). Make sure it has a DVLA watermark, hold the paper up to the light and ensure the watermark is visible. It will also have a serial number, printed on the top right corner of the first page of the document. Check the log book details match the car, including the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number. The VIN number will be stamped into the chassis of a vehicle, usually found in the engine bay or beneath the plastic trim around the driver or passenger door opening. The car engine number is found printed on the vehicle's engine casing.

Be aware of cars that seem like a tantalising bargain, if they seem to be too good to be true, the chance is they probably are. Criminals trying to get rid of a car tend to do transactions away from their home, can be pushy and mostly insist on cash for the purchase. Pay by card or cheque where you can. Avoid cash. There’s no paper trail with cash transactions and if you unknowingly purchase a car with cloned plates you can show proof of this transaction. The same applies for selling a car.

Check the registration plate. Is it a legal plate? Does it have the British Standard mark and manufacturer/dealer’s details at the bottom? If not, this is a show plate and has not been purchased through a reputable DVLA registered supplier. Registered suppliers, such as IdentiPlate, will ask for documents before providing you a set of number plates to avoid number plate fraud. This includes evidence of name, address and proof of ownership of the registration.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t take the sellers word for everything. It is better to ask now then possibly regret it later. If you still are not 100% sure, walk away. It isn’t worth the risk.

What can I do to prevent myself being a victim of number plate fraud?

Purchase your replacement number plates with a reputable DVLA recognised company such as IdentiPlate. Using an unrecognised website means you don’t know who is receiving your details at the other end and leaves you open to fraud. Also, show plates tend to be deliberately mis spaced, have no supplier details and can have designs that don’t conform to the DVLA guidelines. This means they are not MOT compliant which subsequently means insurance terms and conditions are breached, in turn invalidating the policy.

To ensure your number plates are not stolen from your car, ensure your vehicle is parked as close to your property as possible, in a well-lit space. In the most secure place as you can. Investing in CCTV can be a beneficial extra safety measure. There are several anti theft number plate bolts that can be purchased for under £6.

What if I suspect I am the victim of number plate cloning?

Contact the police on 101 in the first instance and explain the situation. It is important that they are informed incase of fines, court summons or any crimes being committed that may arise from the situation. The DVLA also needs to be informed so this can be added to the car’s record. You can contact the DVLA by phoning them on 0300 790 6802 (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm Sat 8am-4pm) or by writing to them; DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR. You may need to contact the issuer of the fine to explain the situation to them so it doesn’t escalate.

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