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Everything you need to know about cloned number plates

October, 11 2023 | James Russell

Usually, in our blog, we like to share our joy of all things private number plates.


Everything you need to know about cloned number plates

However, today we are covering the darker subject of number plate cloning.

From how to spot a cloned number plate to reducing the chances of your own plate being cloned, and everything in between, we’ll provide advice regarding the topic so you can minimise the risk of being caught out.

What is number plate cloning?

Number plate cloning is the copying of a registration plate from one vehicle for use on another. It’s a crime to clone a number plate and perpetrators can be subject to legal sanctions including a fine of up to £1,000.

Who clones number plates?

Cloned plates are used by criminals. This might be to escape detection for criminal activity such as avoiding speeding or parking offences or dodging tolls or congestion charges. These actions may then be linked to the true owner of a vehicle.

What kind of number plates are cloned?

Typically, a cloner steals details from a similar vehicle so the make and specification, tax, and MOT, are alike. This allows the vehicle to be passed off as legitimate and less likely to be highlighted by ANPR cameras or the police.

How to reduce the chances of your number plate being cloned

Sadly, number plate cloning is predicted to rise in the UK with the introduction of ULEZ and similar schemes throughout the country.

However, there are precautionary measures to stop your car being cloned. 

Use a garage and tamper-resistant screws

Keeping your vehicle in a secure garage (if you have one) will deny a casual cloner the chance to record your registration number and vehicle details. Opportunists may also be deterred by tamper-resistant screws if your plate is fixed in this way rather than by adhesive pads.

Be careful online

Sharing details of your vehicle online is a sure-fire way to attract number plate cloning. So, keep the online details of your vehicle sparse and if you upload a picture to social media, for example, cover the number plate.

You should also keep your V5C (logbook) and the digit reference number private, so number plate cloners can’t easily access your details.

Use a reputable supplier when buying or replacing physical number plates

Unfortunately, unreliable number plate suppliers are all over the internet, particularly on places like Facebook and eBay where rogue individuals can pose as professionals. As well as cloning possibilities, these people will often supply illegally spaced number plates, also known as show plates, which aren’t legal on UK roads and could land you with a fine.

To avoid any issues, it’s best to use a reputable number plate supplier when purchasing a number plate. Our recommendation is to buy physical number plates with Jepson & Co Ltd - the oldest and one of the most reputable number plate suppliers in the UK. As our parent company, they also provide physical number plates when you purchase a private reg with National Numbers.

Jepson & Co Ltd have recently developed ‘’PlateSync’’, too, which is an incredibly secure system for recording where and when a number plate was printed. With PlateSync, data is recorded in real-time and fully compliant with DVLA regulations, as well as GDPR and BS AU 145e standards, so you can rest assured that the records kept are accurate.

This could be invaluable evidence in countering a clone-related crime, but only reputable suppliers will use these kinds of advanced systems.

Find out more about PlateSync here.

What to do if your number plate is cloned

If you think your number plate has been cloned, it’s crucial to advise the police and DVLA. You’ll also need to contact the issuer of any speeding or penalty fines and notify them that they don’t relate to your vehicle.

If you can furnish evidence of this, so much the better, and having and doing the following will help:

  • A crime number from the police.
  • Consult with your insurer about any insurance implications and guidance they can provide.
  • If you have a dash cam or tracker this will provide details of where your car was (or wasn’t) at the time of the offence.

Furthermore, you might want to ask the issuer for photographic or other details of the vehicle and the number plate in question to allow comparison with your own. This might highlight any disparities or distinctive features between the two.

How to spot a cloned number plate when buying a vehicle

Carry out physical checks

If you’re planning to buy a vehicle, there are various checks that you can carry out to help spot if it’s been cloned. These can be done alongside other verification measures to bring to light any issues with your prospective purchase.

Firstly, the V5C (logbook) shows who the car is registered to and the address they’ve given. So, ask to see the V5C and check that the details correspond to the vehicle in question. Within the V5C, you can also validate the make and model, date of registration, VIN/chassis number, engine number and colour of the vehicle.

You should also examine the number plates for evidence that they look either damaged or recently replaced. This might indicate whether they have been forcibly removed from another vehicle.

In context with any other checks or information, consider if the deal looks too good to be true. If it does, walk on by.

Use the DVLA vehicle enquiry website

Then, there’s the DVLA vehicle enquiry site, which allows an external cross-check of the details they hold to the ones the vendor is providing.

In particular, the vehicle registration number make, and model can be found, as well as the year of manufacture, engine size, emissions, and date of the last V5C issue. The service also provides the tax and MOT status and due dates.

Consider a HPI check

A HPI (Hire Purchase Investigation) check is a privately prepared report, which, depending on the service, can contain details of the vehicle’s history. These details can include any outstanding finance on the vehicle, if it’s been previously recognised as stolen, or if it’s subject to write-off.

Final thoughts about number plate cloning

We appreciate the measures above are not exhaustive and that not all cloning is of the same type.

However, we do sympathise with the misery of having to deal with the aftermath of it and hopefully the above is of some help.

Buy a private number plate with National Numbers

National Numbers has over 66 million number plates available to buy online, with each and every one of them completely unique and DVLA-issued. Buy private number plates online or give our sales team a call on 01642 363738 to get some inspiration or advice.

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