Number Plate Cloning On the Rise

We recently put out a press release on the issue of number plate cloning, a crime which makes victims of innocent motorists. With the London ULEZ zone expanding, cloning is unfortunately on the rise, stressing out motorists who are being sent ULEZ charges and speeding fines for offences they have not committed.
15/09/2023 News
A Black and white image. On the left, a car is facing left, under a streetlight. The image is mirrored on the right. Text across the top reads 'NUMBER PLATE CLONING'

What is number plate cloning?

It’s a form of vehicle identity theft which you may have heard referred to as number plate stealing, but in most cases, criminals won’t take your physical plates. They’ll just have illegal copies of your number plates made, to prevent the vehicle’s true identity being traced when driving.

How does it happen?

Petty Criminals search through pictures of cars and vans online which match the make, type and colour of their own. If there’s an unobscured shot of the number plates then Bingo! They then use an unregistered or unscrupulous plate supplier to make a set of “no questions asked’ number plates to match, and swap them onto their vehicle, so that it looks like an exact copy of the other vehicle. This gets them past automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) scanner checks used by law enforcement, as the vehicle looks like it should look.

Our advice: don’t post clear pictures of your vehicle’s number plates online

How do you know if you’re a victim of plate cloning?

The first time you’re likely to find out is when a speeding fine or ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) bill from a part of the country you have rarely (if ever) visited arrives on your doormat!

“We have been inundated with calls from drivers. There has been a massive increase in number plate cloning over the last two years. We are getting between 50 and 100 calls every single week from car owners who want to get personalised number plates in a bid to disassociate themselves with the cloned registration mark,” says Antony Clark, our Marketing Manager.

We have been inundated with calls from drivers. There has been a massive increase in number plate cloning over the last two years. We are getting between 50 and 100 calls every single week from car owners who want to get personalised number plates in a bid to disassociate themselves with the cloned registration mark

You may not discover that someone else is using your registration mark unless you receive a fine, so in most cases, you won’t find out that your plate has been cloned until it is used for speeding or other criminal activity. If you do get a fine from an area you were not driving in, then consider that your registration may have been cloned

This is a very stressful time for these innocent motorists as it’s up to them to prove it wasn’t them and it wasn’t their vehicle. If they have a vehicle-tracker or dash cam fitted then they can use that to show that they were not in the place at the time the offence was committed. The problem is, while the police are trying to investigate their claims of innocence, the perpetrator may still be driving around, and more fines & charges could arrive at the victims’ home, with legal threats of enforcement action for non-payment. Thousands of pounds in fines and charges can build up in no time at all

At Plates4Less, we’re all too aware of how difficult it is to clear your name if you become a victim of number plate cloning. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to quickly de-stress the situation and protect yourself from further problems.

What can I do to stop receiving speeding fines and ULEZ or London Congestion Zone charges?

Victims have found that the quickest way to stop receiving fines and charges is to legally change their number plates to something more personal or distinctive. This is one strategy to try if you are a victim of number plate cloning. So, switching to private plates will help disassociate you with criminal plates. Additionally, according to Autotrader, “personalised number plates have a lesser chance of being cloned due to their distinctiveness.”

It’s important to contact the police or other relevant authorities as soon as you become aware that your plates have been cloned. However, for peace of mind, switching your plate can be a good solution.

This is a screenshot of our cover plates page, showing a number of cheap private plates under £200.

‘Cover plates’ are the cheapest solution that Plates4less offer, helping people to change their vehicle’s registration mark with a non-personalised combination,” Antony added. We have a number of cheap private plates on our cover plate hotlist, including some number plates under £200.

At Plates4Less, we understand that this can be a stressful situation and we’re happy to help resolve this problem quickly. We are based in Swansea where the DVLA is also located, and we can physically deliver documents in order to ensure the process is as fast as possible.

Our Advice if your Number Plate has been cloned

Steps you can take to minimise your risk and chance of prosecution

  1. Take photos of your vehicle. These can be a great help in showing subtle differences between any offending vehicle and your own. Those dents and scrapes and other imperfections (or lack thereof) could get you off the hook, as can any distinctive stickers or other decals you may have.
  2. Speaking of number plates, ensure you purchase your plates from a legally registered manufacturer. A legitimate manufacturer is legally obliged to provide their details on the plate, albeit using a small design or font. Cloned plates frequently lack this detail.
  3. If you are a victim of registration cloning, contact the DVLA and the police. It may not lead to an investigation, but it will contribute to your evidence of innocence.
  4. CCTV footage can help prove your whereabouts 1. you can use the ANPR technology of the area you were in at the time the fine was issued. You have the right to ask for this footage, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get hold of!
  5. It might be worth getting a dash camera as they can help prove your location. GPS tracking, too, is a good investment. Similarly, the testimony of other people can help argue your case, if they’re willing to provide witness statements.
  6. As detailed above, personalised registration numbers are less frequently targeted as they are so distinctive, meaning they make for good preventative measures. Similarly, if you find you have been cloned, a replacement registration number is a great way to avoid further fines and a personal plate does not have to be expensive.

Please be aware that number plate cloning is on the rise, so stay vigilant and take steps to keep your plates safe. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of number plate cloning you can use our website to find a cheap private plate, or use our smart search for private number plates if you are looking for something specific or personalised to you.