What is car cloning?

Did you know that your car could be cloned by criminals? Here’s what you need to know about this modern-day crime and how to avoid falling victim to it. 

Did you know that your car could be cloned by criminals? Here’s what you need to know about this modern-day crime and how to avoid falling victim to it. 

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 27 JANUARY 2020

What is car cloning?

Car cloning – or vehicle identity theft – is when a car is given a new number plate, in order to replicate another vehicle of the same make, model and colour.  

So, who would clone a car? The answer is: criminals. They might use the car to commit a robbery or to avoid speeding fines and parking tickets. They might even use fake plates to sell a stolen car to an unsuspecting buyer.

What happens if I buy a cloned car?

If you buy a cloned car, you’ll lose both the car and the money you paid for it. So if you’re buying a used car make sure you do all the necessary checks. If a car’s being sold without V5C registration documents or a service history, that’s a definite red flag. But these documents can be forged, so be vigilant. 

How do criminals clone a car?

All they need is a new number plate. If you’re buying a new number plate, the law says you have to supply a V5C vehicle registration certificate or other proof of ownership. But rogue online dealers often sell number plates without asking for evidence. 

What to look out for

If your number plates are ever stolen, contact the police immediately. If you start receiving mysterious speeding tickets or parking fines, you could be the victim of a cloning scam. 

What should I do if my car has been cloned?

If you receive fines you know you don’t deserve, here’s what to do:  

  • Contact the relevant authorities with any evidence you might have to prove the fines aren’t yours
  • Call the DVLA and explain the situation
  •  Let the police know.

How to spot a car that’s been cloned

If you’re buying a used car, here’s what to look for:

Is the car suspiciously cheap? If you come across a car that’s way below the market price, it should ring alarm bells. And don’t pay in cash. If you do, there’s no real proof that you paid for the car. 

Before you go to see a car, ask the seller for the registration number, make and model, and MOT test number. You can then check online to see if the details you’ve been given match DVLA information.

When you go to see the vehicle, a couple of simple checks will also help you avoid a cloned car:

  • Check the logbook – the V5C vehicle registration certificate. Make sure the number plates in the document and on the car match. Check that it has the right 'DVL' watermark. Look at the serial number. The DVLA advises that you should check that the number: "is not between BG8229501 to BG9999030, or BI2305501 to BI2800000. If it is, the V5C might be stolen - call the police as soon as it’s safe to."
  • Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number and make sure these match the logbook. The VIN is usually stamped into the chassis of the vehicle.

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