Car cloning: Motorists urged to be alert as offences rise – it could cost you over £2,000

Car cloning offences are on the rise in the UK, warns new reports. Cloning is the process of cooing the number plates from one car and using them on a separate, often very similar vehicle, often to obscure its true identity.

Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, says 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 comments: “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.”

The offence allows criminal more easily disguise the identity of a stolen vehicle by using false plates already in use on a legally taxed vehicle.

Mr Shorto added: “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 an 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.”

A HPI check will allow you to determine whether the vehicle registration number, engine number, and vehicle identification number stamped on the car match with records held by the DVLA.

Continued Mr Shorto: “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.”

One reason why cloning could be on the rise is that you can purchase ‘show plates’ on the internet or over the phone without documentation.

Usually to be able to purchase a number plate motorists will need to have the vehicle’s log book, a driver’s licence and proof of address.

Last year it was revealed that one motorist had to pay £2,000 in fines for offences he didn’t commit as a result of being a cloning victim.

Mr Shorto added: “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.”

Top tips for used car buyers to take to avoid being caught out by cloning criminals:

  • Always check the provenance/history of the car you are looking to buy, and make sure you view it at the address shown on the V5C/logbook.  
  • Check the vehicle’s V5C/logbook. Stolen and fake documents are still being used to accompany cloned vehicles. The HPI Check includes a unique stolen logbook document check as standard. There are currently more than 200,000 stolen V5C registration documents, or logbooks, in circulation. 
  • Ensure all the VIN/chassis numbers on the vehicle match each other and then conduct a vehicle history check such as the HPI Check to ensure they match DVLA records.
  • Know the car’s market value. If you are paying less than 70% of the market price for a vehicle, then be on your guard. No seller will want to lose money on their sale. Visit for a free valuation.
  • Avoid paying in cash, especially if the car costs over £3,000. Buyers who pay in cash and then find out that the car is cloned have no comeback and find themselves with no money and no car.

Concludes Barry Shorto:  “A thorough vehicle history check done online at will confirm if a vehicle has a chequered past. It’s better to be safe than sorry and out of pocket. 

“The HPI Check also includes a guarantee which provides cover against buying a cloned car, offering buyers financial peace of mind in the event of being conned by a ruthless criminal.”

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