Not everyone will experience the misfortune of having their vehicle cloned, but it’s something I see every now and again in my line of work. Many people only discover this when they get pulled over by the Police or when they receive a PCN for an offence they didn’t commit. It is unfortunately a crime that is on the rise, and has been for some time. This does mean that it can be hard to convince an Authority of a genuine case of cloning rather than just an attempt to have a penalty cancelled.
It can be an uphill struggle to try to prove your innocence to a Local Authority (the Police can sometimes be more understanding), but there are things you can do to improve your chances. A lot can depend on how clever the cloners are, as not everyone will take someone’s plate and put in on an identical vehicle.
The first thing you should do if you are absolutely certain that your vehicle has been cloned, (and not for example that someone used your vehicle without your permission or knowledge) is to consider reporting it to the Police. It is ultimately a crime and the Police will need to investigate and hopefully track down the offender(s). The downside is that you may also be more likely to get stopped by them in future, but there are some tips the Police can often give to help identify your vehicle as the correct one to hopefully reduce this. Many Authorities will not take a PCN appeal seriously unless you can provide a crime reference number. This helps the Authority liaise with the Police, and also shows that you are genuine.
After this step, you then need to get images of the offence. If you had images on the PCN then that’s a start, but you may be able to get images online that are a lot clearer. If you navigate to the main page of PCN Portal you can check to see whether that authority allows you to view your PCN images online (it’s what we’re here for!). If you are unable to get any online, write to the authority as soon as possible. If you tell them that you believe your vehicle was cloned and need images, they may put the case on hold.
Once you have your images, you should be able to see whether the vehicle differs from your own. If you were not able to get any images, you can still send your own pictures to the authority and ask them to compare to their images or footage. If you drive a Mondeo and they have put your plates onto a Beetle, it’s going to be pretty clear it’s the wrong car. If you can get an authority to acknowledge this over the phone, you can potentially get your PCN cancelled there and then. If the vehicle is the same model and colour, then you need to dig a little deeper. Having a copy of your vehicle’s V5 document can also help, as it is formal proof of your vehicle make and model, and can quickly help establish if the Authority is looking at the wrong type of vehicle.
Do you have a van with livery or other distinguishing features? Take pictures, everything that marks your vehicle can potentially demonstrate a difference between your vehicle and the cloned one.
Other features that are often different are:
Number plates – Does your set have a ‘GB’ tag, a border or other feature? Plates made illegally might not have these. They will also usually have details of the plate supplier although this could be difficult to make out depending on the quality of the evidence.
Alloy Wheels – The same model of vehicle can have a huge number of alloy wheels as options and they can all look very different.
Exterior trim – Fog lights, sunroofs, spoilers, roof bars. All of these things can vary on the same model vehicle.
Images are not the only thing that can help. If you can’t prove visually that the vehicle was different, then another option is to prove you were elsewhere at the time with the vehicle.
Were you parked at a property with CCTV that would show your vehicle there at the time of the offence? If your vehicle has telematics or a tracker, can those details could be used to prove your vehicle was elsewhere? Do you have any documents that might prove your innocence? These could include job sheets if you are a trader, or an invoice showing your vehicle at a garage for example.
This option may not hold as much weight as some of the others, but is there anyone who could swear in writing on your behalf that you and the vehicle were somewhere else?
If none of these ideas works, then unfortunately the Authority can hold the Registered Keeper of the vehicle responsible. You can make a request for the DVLA to re-register your vehicle but it is done entirely at their discretion. Often they won’t do this unless you are receiving numerous fines, or if someone has attempted to actually re-register your vehicle into their name. In certain circumstances they might also re-register the vehicle if you believe it could put you in danger. This could happen if the criminal(s) using your cloned plates commit a very serious offence or are involved in gang activity etc… It would be arguable that under those circumstances it would be safer to be issued with a new registration.
Hopefully this post gives you an idea of how you can approach the problem of a cloned vehicle if it ever happens to you.