Insurer warns of Vehicle Cloning Risk

Allianz, one of the insurers whose car insurance policies are available through P F Spare Insurance Brokers, has issued a warning that it is recording a rising number of enquiries from policyholders receiving parking tickets for vehicles at locations they’ve never visited. When reviewing CCTV footage, it shows a vehicle without signage which is not the registered vehicle.

Vehicle cloning occurs where a number plate is stolen or replicated and used on an unconnected vehicle; it’s likened to personal identity theft, but for vehicles. Increasing numbers of people, who legally own their own vehicle, are reporting receiving fines they never incurred as a result of one of their vehicles being cloned.

Vehicle cloning is often used to disguise criminal activity

Previously cars have been cloned to disguise the fact that they’re stolen, but more commonly criminals are cloning number plates to avoid speeding fines and parking tickets. In some cases, vehicles are even used to commit more serious crimes, enabling them to drive on the roads under the radar of the police.

In order to clone a vehicle, the thief can either steal the number plate of the legitimate car or, more commonly, buy a number plate online. Ideally the thief is looking for a vehicle with the same make and model to one which is insured.

How have the government responded?

In a bid to cut down on car cloning, the Government tightened up the laws on the sale of number plates in 2003 so that buyers have to provide proof of identity and ownership. But the rules apply only to UK suppliers and are easy to get around, particularly online where ‘show plates’ can be brought which can be fitted to the vehicle.

What are the consequences?

For most victims of vehicle cloning, it’s a parking fine from somewhere they’ve never visited or a speeding ticket issued on a day where the car was sitting in the garage that raises the alarm. For others, it can be more extreme with the police turning up at the doorstop, especially if the car has been used to commit a crime.

Reducing the risk

The consequences are severe. Drivers who unknowingly buy a stolen vehicle that has been given a false identity can lose both the car and their money. It’s therefore important that we help our customers reduce the risk. When buying a vehicle, here are some simple tips you should follow:

• Ask the seller for the registration number, make and model of the vehicle before seeing it. These details can then be verified on the DVLA’s free, online vehicle enquiry service.
• Check the log book or V5C vehicle registration certificate when viewing the vehicle. It should have a ‘DVL’ watermark and the serial number shouldn’t be between BG8229501 to BG9999030 or BI2305501 to BI2800000. If it is, the V5C might be stolen.
• Check the details on the V5C match the details given to them by the owner.
• Insist on viewing the vehicle at the address on the log book. Don’t meet in a car park or motorway service station.
• Look for the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) and check that it corresponds with the details in the log book. The VIN can usually be found on a metal plate under the bonnet.
• If the vehicle is on the market for less than 70% of its typical value, then the old rule ‘if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is’ usually applies.

If a cloned vehicle is discovered, owners need to notify both the police and the DVLA. If any fines or tickets have been received, the relevant paperwork should be returned, together with any evidence to prove that the registered vehicle wasn’t present at the time of the incident.

More information on car cloning can be found in the Government’s vehicle registration numbers and number plates leaflet.