Urgent driver warning as car cloning rates spike as motorists ‘frightened’ to report crime

Driver's warning after fake number plate appears on her car

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The number of cloned cars on the UK’s roads is increasing as criminals copy legitimate registration plates and use fake identities to drive vehicles that are stolen, unroadworthy or involved in unlawful activity. Latest data from Transport for London shows an 857 percent increase in the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) being cancelled due to the car being a clone in April alone.

There has also been a 631 percent increase in PCNs being overturned due to cloning since the ULEZ was expanded in October 2021.

Marc Cramsie was faced with six different PCNs, potentially costing up to £1,070 when he was a victim of car cloning in 2021.

Three of the PCNs were from Transport for London (TfL) for the congestion charge and two were from Lambeth Council for failing to comply with a prohibition on certain types of vehicle, and being in a bus lane.

The sixth fine was from Brighton and Hove City Council for being in a bus lane.

Although Marc paid the first fine he received he quickly realised his vehicle had been cloned when more PCNs arrived and he decided to appeal.

The process took six months in total, despite evidence of his innocence.

The 72-year-old claimed he wasn’t even in the country at the time of the Brighton PCN.

He provided his flight details and boarding cards, but said the council still wasn’t satisfied.

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Marc’s car also had a resident parking sticker on the windscreen – the cloned car didn’t. But that fact did not overturn the PCNs either. 

Both TfL and Brighton and Hove City Council wanted evidence that the police were investigating Marc’s car being cloned.

He said: “They wanted the police station details and a crime reference number but when I rang up the police they logged my call but did not give me a crime reference as they couldn’t treat it as a crime.”

When a driver reports their vehicle has been cloned in the UK the police put a marker onto the Police National Computer database to say that that vehicle is likely to be a duplicate identity.

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This allows officers to potentially stop that vehicle and verify who the owner of the vehicle actually is.

Marc also reported the matter to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, which generated a case number but “that didn’t seem to make a difference either”. 

Eventually, Marc took his case to tribunal and was successful. 

He said the adjudicator had spotted two bolt holes in the number plate of the cloned car, which seemed to be a deciding factor.

Marc then wrote to TfL and Lambeth Council to say that Brighton had allowed his appeal and they both also cancelled their PCNs. 

However, Lambeth would not refund the initial PCN that Marc had paid as he had lost his right to appeal

He added: “The presumption very much seems to be that you’re guilty until you can prove your innocence. 

“Somebody less dogged than me might be frightened into just paying up when they don’t need to.”

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