Green penalties for older cars are fuelling a rise in cloned plates as drivers seek to avoid fines for fume-spewing vehicles, motoring experts warn
- The AA fears fake plate rise has only begun with more green zones brought in
- Birmingham, London and Bath have led the way on bringing in green zones
- And Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle could be next
A surge in illegal number plate cloning has been blamed on drivers trying to avoid paying penalties for older polluting cars.
Reports of cars being wrongly linked to fines for driving in ‘clean air’ or ‘low-emissions’ zones have shot up, suggesting more and more rogue motorists are fitting fake plates to cheat city centre enforcement cameras.
Too easy: Our reporter with number plates that he bought online and were shipped from Jersey
Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield and Newcastle could be next.
And as more city centres bring in such zones, the AA fears the rise in fake plates has only just begun.
Figures obtained by the Daily Mail show the number of drivers complaining to the DVLA about correspondence, fines or penalties wrongly linked to their vehicles – an indicator of their plates being cloned – more than doubled in 2019.
This was the year London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the 24-hour ultra-low emission zone, which imposes a £12.50 charge (on top of the £15 for entering the capital’s congestion zone) on older polluting cars and vans.
By comparison, illegally cloned plates can be bought online in seconds for under £30.
Figures obtained by the Daily Mail show the number of drivers complaining to the DVLA about correspondence, fines or penalties wrongly linked to their vehicles – an indicator of their plates being cloned – more than doubled in 2019. This was the year London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the 24-hour ultra-low emission zone
The DVLA had 9,384 complaints about correspondence, fines or penalties wrongly linked to vehicles in 2019, up from 4,021 in 2018. In 2020 the figure fell to 7,400, thought to be due to traffic levels in the pandemic. Between January 1 and July 31 last year, the latest period figures are available for, it was 4,110.
Jack Cousens, of the AA, said: ‘With cities across the country introducing clean air zones, plate cloning could increase as fraudsters hope to cheat the charges.’
He urged the Government to close down offshore businesses – particularly ‘no questions asked’ websites in the Channel Islands – offering to clone plates.
Drivers looking for fake plates trawl online car sale sites for vehicles that are the same as theirs but newer, so they do not fall within pollution charges rules. They note the number plate and order a copy online.
The Mail was able to order one set of plates from a firm based in Saint Helier, Jersey, for just over £30 including delivery.
A second firm allowed our reporter to order a set of plates registered to another car without asking for any ownership documents.
Airbag thefts put lives at risk
Car thieves are cashing in on stolen airbags, which can take less than five minutes to remove and are then sold to rogue garages for up to £500.
Drivers may be unaware the life-saving devices have been stolen until they are involved in a crash.
Several police forces have issued warnings about the trend, including Cleveland and Greater Manchester.
Gangs appear to target BMW, Honda and Toyota cars the most. Edmund King, president of the AA, called on police to crack down on the thieves and the rogue garages fuelling the trend. ‘Airbag theft can be like a silent assassin,’ he told The Sunday Times. ‘In some cases the driver doesn’t know about the theft until it is too late.’
He also advised drivers to buy steering locks that cover the entire wheel, making it more difficult to steal the main driver airbag.