Is Cloning a Problem and How Can You Protect Your Number Plate?

    Some newspapers have reported that car cloning has gone up by as much as 156% throughout 2018/19.  The DVLA data shows 6,173 reports and inquiries about cloned car registrations and 204 new car number plates were actually issued to victims of car cloning.

    How do I know if my car has been cloned?

    You won’t.  Usually, the first alert is receiving a fine or a charge like a car parking ticket or a Fixed Penalty Notice which you know you have not incurred.

    How does car cloning work?

    It’s simple, a car registration is duplicated and added to a similar type of vehicle.  Usually, these vehicles are used for some sort of illegal activity and sooner or later the cloning comes to light when the car is picked up on a camera committing some sort of offense.

    What role can number plates manufacturers and suppliers play in stamping out car cloning?

    As you should produce your vehicle’s documents in order to obtain a replacement number plate, then this part of the process should flag up some of the culprits unless, of course, they are using fake documents.

    It is mandatory for all number plates suppliers to record customer details for every plate they create and sell.  If they cannot evidence this and/or the requisite proofs of entitlement then they are breaking the law and the plates they have issued may be illegal even if they have made them for a bona fide customer who has genuinely just forgotten to bring his documents with him.  But the rules are absolute and any number plate supplier found in breach of them risks being permanently removed from the DVLA list and prosecuted which could result in a fine.

    What should you do if you find out your plate may have been copied?

    Normally, people find out because they receive a Fixed Notice Penalty Charge or a parking ticket or even a court summons.  You should take the following steps:-

    • Report the matter to the Police and acquire a case reference number.  They will need to make inquiries to pursue, identify and prosecute the offender
    • Return the paperwork to the issuing authority retaining copies for your own records.  Give them as much documentary evidence as possible to illustrate that whilst this is your car registration, it is not your offense
    • Write to the DVLA in Swansea who will keep a record of this situation on the vehicle’s history
    • If the DVLA are satisfied with your account of events and are happy the cloning is genuine then they may issue the vehicle with a new registration number

    What is being done to prevent cloning?

    The DVLA is continuing to introduce measures to cut down on cloning cases.  One step has been to introduce the Registered Number Plate Scheme.  Now only suppliers on the RNPS can make and sell number plates and they have to comply with the DVLA regulations on recording legal documents.

    The idea of the scheme is to introduce greater control and accountability in order to squeeze out plate suppliers who were not taking enough care over the paperwork produced to support ownership of a vehicle when someone came forward to buy a new set of registration plates.  Plate makers now have to keep documentary evidence for each plate sale they have made including the customer’s name and address and entitlement to the mark and these records can be accessed at any time by the Police and the DVLA.  The idea is to protect the public and reduce the incidence of criminal activity when it comes to car cloning.

    One well-known plate maker and in fact, the oldest company making registration plates in the UK, Sheffield-based  Jepson’s, has now developed something called PlateSync, the UK’s first GDPR compliant secure plate-making software which enables outlets to easily and securely record details of every registration produced including the platemaker and the date and location of manufacture.  It makes it simple for the plate maker to record the correct customer verification by issuing prompts to ensure the process is compliant with the DVLA requirements.  And, if required, it is easy to access customer records should a request be made by the police or Trading Standards.  Jepson’s move is the first active anti-cloning product that has been introduced to the car market and achieved the Highly Commended Award for Security and Innovation at a Home Office Security and Policing Conference.

    Are there any steps that individual motorists can take to prevent their plates from being copied?

    It would seem an impossible task to protect your number plate but there are things you can do:-

    • If you need replacement plates due to damage or an MOT failure, only ever buy your new plates from an authorized RNPS outlet
    • Check that your new plates are BS compliant – they should have the sequence BS AU 145d printed in the bottom right-hand corner of each plate
    • The name of the RNPS registered supplier and their postcode should be displayed at the bottom of the middle section on each plate
    • Take a close-up picture of both plates to act as a record of your car.  This will capture any individual marks such as one of the permitted flags, garage personalization or even scuffs or chips which can uniquely identify the plates as yours and differentiate them from a cloned set.  It is highly unlikely that criminals have actually recorded a note of the registration number from your car so replacement plates will not be replicated with unique identifying features.  This can help you prove your legitimacy in the event of a car cloning incident

    Sometimes, plates are physically stolen from a vehicle to be used later for some sort of criminal activity.  The registration number industry in response to this has developed anti-theft number plates which is a further step you can take to keep your vehicle secure.  Most people use sticky black plastic adhesive to secure their plates but you can now purchase from motor stores anti-theft screws and bolts which are a much more effective way of keeping your number plates safe and secure on your vehicle.

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