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Number Plate Cloning: What it Could Mean for You

Posted on 21st May 2023
Number Plate Cloning: What it Could Mean for You

Number plate cloning is a serious crime affecting motorists in the UK and has seen many drivers face a huge variety of issues. Recently released data shows that there are approximately 13,000 reported cases of number plate cloning across England and Wales each year. This results in car owners being penalised for things that were not their fault or hadn’t even taken place with their vehicle.

But why does it happen and what benefit does it bring to criminals?

What is number plate cloning?

Number plate cloning is where a criminal will put the registration of your vehicle onto one that has more than likely been involved in a serious crime. Common occurrences of number plate cloning are when criminals may have stolen a vehicle, are carrying out serious criminal offences or are attempting to repair a written-off vehicle and have it seen as roadworthy.

The criminals will simply search for a model of car that matches the one they have committed crimes with, find a fully legal one and in effect, steal its identity.

To appear even more genuine, fake logbooks and a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also generated to help give the criminal vehicle a totally fresh and what appears to be a legal identity.

This then means the owner of the real car holding this registration may collect fines, risk arrest and more all due to the criminal’s masquerade.

Why do criminals clone number plates?

If a vehicle is involved in serious criminal activity, the orchestrator of the crime will want to do as much as possible to remain hidden from police view. One such way is to make the vehicle used, appear as someone else’s.

Other times, more minor crimes may also be committed but if the driver has been banned, or caught speeding previously, showboating as somebody else will enable them to stay on the road whilst the actual owner of the car faces the tickets, parking fines and more.

This is in part due to the large increase in ANPR cameras we are seeing in the UK. An ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) camera scans the number plate of a vehicle and checks it against a database to see if it is road legal. This presents problems for people looking to commit crimes as it can be very easy to trace them. Hide the identity and suddenly it becomes much easier to hide away.

Common reasons for number plate cloning

The reasons a plate is cloned will vary but common crimes associated with number plate cloning are:

  • Stolen vehicles
  • Fuel theft
  • Serious crime where a getaway car is needed
  • Speeding tickets, parking fines, toll charges, ULEZ and similar charges

As we can see, some of the crimes committed are more severe than others and it has been noted, in London especially, that the crime is commonly carried out to show a car to be “greener” than it really is. In 2020 for example, as the ULEZ expanded, close to 5,000 drivers received penalties for driving cloned vehicles.

How does my number plate get cloned?

Unfortunately, it can be quite an easy process. A cloned number plate can be ordered and whilst in most cases, checks are carried out to ensure the requested number plate is correct and fully legal, some suppliers fail to carry out correct due diligence.

This means that very quickly there can be two cars on the roads with the same number plate. One is a fully legal and registered vehicle, and the other is an illegal vehicle with cloned plates.

Luckily, a fully compliant supplier of plates will only produce a licence plate with the correct information supplied to them such as proof of ownership. Also, all legal manufacturers of number plates must display their supplier information on the plates they create.

How can I stop number plate cloning?

Unfortunately, many criminals are smooth operators so the only way to stop them is to give them no chance at all of cloning your number plate. By doing some or all of the following you can reduce the risk of seeing your vehicle have its number plate cloned.

  • Park your vehicle in a garage or away from the street where possible. This can keep your car away from unscrupulous eyes that may take note of the number plate and any other details of the vehicle.
  • Protect your number plate with anti-theft screws and add some personalisation to it such as a flag.
  • Don’t post pictures of your vehicle on social media. A picture can be shared very quickly and all it takes is a sight of the number plate, make, model and any features and a criminal can be ready to go.
  • Search for your vehicle online and where possible remove any images.
  • If your vehicle was previously advertised online or the previous owners posted pictures of it, you could consider changing your registration number to stay ahead of the criminals.

Of course, these may be seen as extreme reactions by some people but with the number of offences rising, each preventative measure goes someway to your vehicle not being added to the statistics.

Further to these steps you should also take pictures of your vehicle that may illustrate any unique features. Dent, scratches and so on. These may be beneficial should you find that your car is alleged to have been part of a crime.

You could also invest in a dash cam. This way you will always have footage of where you are so should the criminals be using your number plate during their illegal activity, you will be able to show it was not you.

How to report cloned number plates

You may not know your number plate has been cloned until the fines start appearing through your letterbox or the police turn up at your door so acting fast to rectify it is important.

Should a fine arrive, you should contact the issuing authority right away. Give them as much information as possible.

From here contact both the DVLA and the police. Provide them with as much detail about your vehicle as possible. This could be dash cam footage, photos, or perhaps even social media posts of your locations that day!

Giving this level of detailed information may help the police spot some inconsistencies in the criminal’s activity. Whilst they may have the same number plate on a similar-looking car, there is every chance a dent, scratch or cosmetic detail may absolve you of any wrongdoing and help lead to the real criminals.



All of our cars at Euphoria Finance are put through stringent checks before being sold and this includes their identity. This way you can rest assured that not only is your vehicle roadworthy, but it is fully legal too. Why not get a free quote to see how you can secure your brand new car finance from us? With our focus on being a car finance direct lender we can say yes to almost anybody, even those looking for bad credit car finance.

With access to over 50,000 vehicles, it’s easy to find cheap new cars on finance or snap up a bargain used car finance deal so get in touch today. We love to say yes!

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