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Motorists urged to be alert to rising problem of car cloning

Motorists urged to be alert to rising problem of car cloning

Car cloning criminals are putting used car owners at risk warns leading vehicle data and valuation specialist HPI.

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.”

Without the need for a tax disc to be displayed in a vehicle windscreen showing the correct registration plate number it is simpler for a crook to disguise a stolen car using false plates already in use on a legally taxed vehicle – ideally for the same make, model and colour of car.

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 a 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.”

The HPI Check confirms 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.”

In order to buy a registration plate in the UK owners must have the vehicle’s log book, a driver’s licence and proof of address. However, it is possible to purchase ‘show plates’ on the internet or over the phone without documentation. Once acquired, there’s nothing to stop show plates being used on the road, albeit fraudulently.

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.”

HPI is urging used car buyers to take some simple but vital steps 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.”

HPI Checks reveal some shocking statistics including: 1 in 3 cars checked have a hidden history and 1 in 3 checked cars are found to have outstanding finance. 75 cars are identified as stolen every day.

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