Motor Industry News
Danny Jeynes has always wanted a BMW. Two months ago, he bought one. It should have been a happy time for 26-year-old Danny. Instead, he found himself caught up in a nightmare with police accusations of dangerous driving hanging over him.
But the fun faded for Danny Jeynes when a thief cloned his car registration. In fact, he was the victim of identity theft. But it was not his credit card that the thief had cloned. It was his car number plate.
Danny's ordeal began only two weeks after he took delivery of his £24,000 BMW 325, a car he calls his 'pride and joy'. Danny was shocked when his mother, Beverley, phoned him to say she had been contacted by police about 'his accident' in Kent, 200 miles from his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
The police told Danny's mother, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees, Teesside, that he had been seen reversing into the back of a car in the early hours of April 23, then driving off. A witness called the police, who chased the car for miles but eventually lost it. Danny, a business development manager, had been nowhere near the incident - he had been asleep at home. But the police were not convinced.
Two days after the phone call from his distraught mother, he received a letter from the police stating that he was the owner of a vehicle, the driver of which was alleged to be guilty of charges including 'dangerous, careless and inconsiderate driving' and 'failure to stop and report an accident'. To make matters worse, he was contacted by a claims company acting for the owner of the car that had been damaged demanding payment for repairs.
Dismayed and upset, Danny contacted the police to say there must have been a mistake, only to be told that his car registration had been recorded and he would have to prove he had been at home and not at the scene of the incident. Thankfully for Danny, police then found a silver BMW identical to his, but with cloned number plates, crashed in a ditch.
When they contacted him, he was able to show that his car was undamaged and parked on his drive. Danny still feels disturbed by the incident. "It could happen again," he says. "I have changed my number for a personalised one but there seems to be nothing to stop criminals targeting my registration again."
According to sources, 10,000 cars with cloned number plates are on the road. It estimates that one in 250 cars driving into the congestion zone in London have cloned plates, allowing drivers to escape the £8 charge. And petrol stations lose more than £14m a year when motorists drive off without paying, most of them with cloned plates.
Drivers with cloned plates also get away with offences such as speeding or going through red lights, knowing that someone else will face fines and penalty points.
To buy legal registration plates, drivers have to show their licence, the car's registration document and proof of address and identity. Legal replacement plates can be bought from dealers, parts suppliers or by mail order. But plates in different designs, known as show plates, may be bought online or over the phone for as little as £20. They are not supposed to be used on the road and because no proof of ownership is needed, it is possible for the buyer to use any number.
Owen Roberts of Creating Profitable Partnerships, which insures against number plate cloning, says: "The problem with replica plates is that they only become illegal when criminals use them on a car. Victims may not realise for some time that their number plate has been cloned."
"This is a version of identity theft and the consequences can be even more severe than card fraud, leading in some cases to court action."
Roberts warns drivers who have number plates stolen or cloned to report the crime immediately to the police. Those who receive unexplained speeding or parking tickets should contact the issuing authority promptly.
Drivers who fall victim more than once should ask the DVLA if they can re-register their car with a new number.
Always make sure you use a company such as mycarcheck.com to check the VIN number before purchase and to make sure it has not been tampered with. With thanks to thisismoney.co.uk.