Car cloning rises
Car cloning criminals are putting used car owners at risk, HPI has found.
Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, said criminals are increasingly using cloning of real licence plates as a method to outwit detection via police automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems, which can have a big impact on the used car market.
He said, 'Cloning primarily takes place to disguise the identity of a stolen car which is sold on to an unsuspecting victim usually for fast cash. However what we are increasingly seeing is petty criminals cloning cars to avoid congestion charges and offences such as speeding tickets and parking fines whilst organised gangs continue to use them to commit more serious crimes.'
Without the need for a tax disc to be displayed in a vehicle windscreen showing the correct registration plate number it is simpler for a crook to disguise a stolen car using false plates already in use on a legally taxed vehicle – ideally for the same make, model and colour of car.
Barry continued, 'This creates trouble for the owners or registered keepers of the cars that have been cloned but also used car buyers who innocently purchase a cloned vehicle. Not only will they lose the car but also their own money when it's returned to the registered keeper by the police.
'If you are looking to buy a second-hand car it is crucial to carry out a HPI Check. This will reveal if the car registration plates have been cloned. It will also identify if the car has been previously stolen or there is money outstanding on it from a previous keeper.'
The HPI Check confirms whether the vehicle registration number, engine number and vehicle identification number stamped on the car match with records held by the DVLA.
'The number of legitimate cars owners reporting fines they never incurred or facing unwelcome visits by the police as a result of their vehicle being unwittingly cloned is on the up. With tougher fines now being enforced for speeding and more speed cameras on UK roads than ever before the problem has escalated.'
In order to buy a registration plate in the UK owners must have the vehicle's log book, a driver's licence and proof of address. However, it is possible to purchase 'show plates' on the internet or over the phone without documentation. Once acquired, there's nothing to stop show plates being used on the road, albeit fraudulently.
'In the majority of cases for most victims of car cloning it's a parking fine from an unfamiliar location or a speeding ticket issued on a day the car was left at home that raises concern. For others, the scenario can be altogether more nightmarish; it could be the police turning up at their front door, especially if the car has been used to commit a crime. But for unwitting buyers of a car with a fake identity, the consequences can be financially devastating.'