One in 12 of the 37 million vehicles on UK roads could be driving with false registration plates, according to new research. Legitimate number plates are often stolen or cloned to deceive roadside police cameras.
False number plates also help perpetrators to evade the law on parking tickets, congestion charges and other more serious crimes. The majority of cloned plates, in which a car’s identity is disguised by the unlawful use of an authorised registration, are associated with serious criminal activity.
However, according to statistics released by the British police force, number plate theft fell dramatically between 2010 and 2014. But does a decline in thefts mean our cars are safe from being tampered with, and if not, how can we help keep our number plates safe?
Around 60 number plates are stolen each day
The British police force statistics noted than on average just under 60 number plates are stolen a day in the UK. Many more are altered with paint, a felt tip pen or black tape to deceive police cameras or witnesses to a crime.
Though this represents a significant decline from the extreme amount of plates stolen in Merseyside in 2014, the threat of theft still exists. There have been sizable decreases in number plate theft in Warwickshire, Cheshire and Surrey, but thefts in the West Midlands, Derbyshire, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire have increased.
How can you keep your vehicle’s number plates safe?
The last thing anyone wants is for their car’s identity to be stolen and having to deal with the consequent ramifications of such illegal actions. There are preventative measures that can be taken in order to keep your plates safe. Some manufacturers are even creating plates that will break if tampered with.
Drivers can make their plates “theft resistant” by using anti-tamper screws that make it incredible difficult for someone to remove a registration plate. Some neighbourhoods are giving these out for free in at-risk areas.
How to avoid buying a car with cloned number plates
It is important to thoroughly research any potential purchase, including an identity check with firms such as Equifax or HPI to find out whether it has finance owing, is written off, clocked or stolen.
Buyers can check the legitimacy of a car’s registration by studying its number plates. If the writing on the bottom of the registration plate doesn’t bear the name of a dealer or plate manufacturer, it has more than likely come from an unregistered source.
If buying from a private seller, it’s worth checking that the seller actually lives where they claim and avoid paying in cash. If a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Though thefts are going down, it is still important to look after your car and avoid any run-ins with the law on behalf of somebody that has stolen your plate, and thus your car’s identity. But we can rest safer knowing that, in most parts of the UK, this activity is on the decline.