Number plate cloning up 26% as nearly 10,000 innocent motorists receive unexpected fines

April 26, 2024 by

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Number plate cloning rose 26% last year resulting in car owners receiving nearly 10,000 unexpected notifications. Here’s some tips to try to avoid it happening to you.

Motorists are being warned about an alarming increase in number plate cloning causing nearly 10,000 motorists the stress of receiving unexpected fines and letters relating to their car, and having to prove their innocence.

  • Car owners received nearly 10,000 unexpected penalty notices in 2023 as a result of a 26% increase in number plate cloning last year – and a 689% increase since 2013
  • Criminals clone car number plates to avoid being traced or to give stolen cars a false identity
  • Motorists warned to be cautious about sharing photos of their number plate on social media and online advertisements
  • Reduce risk of buying a cloned car by always doing essential checks

Car owners received almost 10,000 rogue fines or items of correspondence in relation to their vehicles last year, at the same time as number plate cloning rose 26%, leaving innocent motorists with the hassle of disputing the claims. 

Number plate cloning increased 26% between 2022 to 2023

According to Carwow’s Freedom of Information request, back in 2013 a total of 1,248 people contacted the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) about correspondence, fines or penalties for their vehicles which they did not accept responsibility for, but by 2022, that number had jumped to 7,837 cases and one year later it had increased by over a quarter to 9,850 cases – a whopping 689% increase in 10 years.

The DVLA did point out that a proportion of potential cases of number plate cloning could be due to human error, such as entering incorrect registration numbers when requesting details of the registered keeper, or the owner getting their car’s details wrong when applying for permits, etc. 

Have you received a speeding ticket for your car yet you know it wasn’t you driving it?

Criminals use false number plates to avoid being traced or to avoid speeding, CAZ or parking fines, as well as to give a new identity to stolen cars.

The increase in number plate cloning is in spite of number plate suppliers having to be registered with the DVLA and being required to ask for proof of identity for anyone wanting to buy a new number plate.   

Detecting cloned number plates

There are over 11,000 ANPR cameras active in the UK

One reason for the increase in the number of car owners receiving all these rogue notifications is the rise of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras making detection easier. 

Over 11,000 ANPR cameras are now active across the UK which read about 60 million number plates each day making it easier for the police to detect and track vehicles as well as for authorities to automatically issue Penalty Charge Notices. CCTV is also now commonplace in locations such as petrol stations and car parks to trace the registered keeper for any non-payment.

Last year, a Carwow investigation found that the DVLA raised £23.9 million in income in 2021/22 from sharing driver details following requests to trace the registered keeper based on vehicle number plates. This included 8.57 million requests from private parking companies and 15.29 million requests from local authorities, including councils and Transport for London.

If buying a used car, always check it’s genuine and hasn’t been cloned

What to do if your number plate has been cloned

The DVLA says that if someone believes their number plate has been cloned, they should report it to the police as soon as possible.

“Number plate cloning is difficult to avoid, but if you do receive an unexpected penalty notice or driving offence relating to your car, you should inform the DVLA and the police as soon as possible, and you’ll need to dispute it and prove you weren’t driving the vehicle at the time,” said Carwow’s consumer editor, John Rawlings. 

“Number plate cloning can cause motorists a lot of stress and hassle. To reduce the risk of being a victim of number plate cloning, we recommend always updating the V5C document (logbook) as soon as possible when you sell your car, and being careful if sharing your car’s number plate in any photos you post online in social media posts or classified ads,” he continued. 

The Carwow guide to car cloning explains everything you need to know about car or number plate cloning, what to do if you suspect a car has been cloned, and tips on how to try to avoid your car being cloned in the first place.

To reduce the risk of your number plate being cloned, try to obscure your car’s number plate if posting images of it online

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