What do I do if I’ve had my number plate stolen? I just received a speeding fine for driving on a road I’d never been on

image showing two identical audi a6 cars to illustrate how car cloning works when you've had your number plate stolen

Criminals clone cars – give them new identities – using a stolen number plate. It can result in no end of trouble for the innocent party, largely because some authorities don’t know how to deal with the aftermath of number plate theft. If you’ve had your number plate stolen, we explain what to do here.

What if I have my number plate stolen?

Your stolen number plate will be used to give an identical make, model and usually colour of car to yours a new identity. It’s a way of either giving a car that’s flagged as stolen a legitimate identity or being able to drive and break the law without the consequences that law-abiding citizens face.

Do I need to report stolen number plates to DVLA?

Yes. DVLA will put a note against your car saying it may have been cloned.

You should also call the police. They will put a marker against your car’s registration number on the Police National Computer (PNC). This will flag up the car on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras as possibly being illegally registered.

The police should issue you with a crime number if you report your number plates have been stolen.

image showing identical front and back number plates to illustrate what happens when you have your number plate stolen
It’s not simple to make number plates but crooks manage it

What to do if my number plates are stolen?

The first you’re likely to know of it is when you get a fine of some sort through the post. It might be for driving off without paying for fuel, illegal parking, speeding or even not paying in a low emissions or congestion charge zone.

First call the police and DVLA as above. This will ensure if the car is used to commit crimes you won’t be blamed.

Then contact whoever issued the penalty and explain to them that it doesn’t apply to your car. As far as they’re concerned it does, so you may have to go to some lengths.

These could include showing copies of travel arrangements (if you were away). You may need to get your boss to write a letter proving you were at work when the crime was committed.

Can I drive without number plates if they’ve been stolen?

No. You can be liable for a hefty £1,000 fine if you do. And a car without number plates is a soft and obvious target for police. If you have to travel somewhere to get replacement number plates, we’d advise going by taxi.

What can you do if someone uses your number plates?

People who’ve had their car cloned have struggled to get local authorities to believe that they are victims. “They think you’re guilty until proven innocent,” one said.

Your ally here is likely to be the police. They will know that car cloning is a big problem and should hopefully help you to convince local authorities that you’re not the perpetrator of any crime.

We would also advise you make your car look unique with a discreet sticker front and back. Then, when you get photographs of ‘your car’ apparently committing a crime, you can prove it wasn’t you.

Some victims have had such a tough time after having their number plates stolen they’ve applied to the DVLA for a completely new registration number.

How do crooks clone cars?

The most straightforward way is to find an identical car on the street or in a car park. The crooks then copy down its registration number and have an identical plate made up. Having plates made up by somewhere that isn’t registered is illegal but serious villains don’t care about that.

Alternatively, they might steal the number plates from the legitimate car and put them onto the vehicle whose identity they want to obscure.

Total car cloning is when crooks give a stolen car an entirely new identity. They do this by using a forged V5C proof of ownership, new registration plates and in extreme cases, they’ll give the car new VIN plates.

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