Car registration: How to prevent number plate theft

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Many drivers have been stung by fines wrongly attributed to their cars since the introduction of clean air zones and the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). With the number of fines increasing for drivers who have not entered the car tax zones, it has been suggested that more rogue motorists are using fake plates to cheat city centre enforcement cameras.

Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth all launched their clean air zones last year, with some more polluting vehicles being charged a daily fee for driving in the zone.

A number of other cities are also set to launch a clean air zone this year, including Greater Manchester, Oxford, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Some clean air zones charge older cars between £7 and £10 per day to drive inside the emissions area, whilst larger vehicles like HGVs and buses can be charged between £50 and £100.

There are fears that as more clean air zones are introduced, more fake number plates could be seen.

In 2019, the number of drivers complaining to the DVLA about correspondence, fines or penalties wrongly linked to their vehicles has more than doubled.

The DVLA had 9,384 complaints about correspondence, fines or penalties wrongly linked to vehicles in 2019, up from 4,021 in 2018.

In 2020 the figure fell to 7,400, thought to be due to traffic levels in the pandemic.

Between January 1 and July 31 last year, the latest period figures are available for, it was 4,110.

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Jack Cousens, head of policy at the AA, said: “With cities across the country introducing clean air zones, plate cloning could increase as fraudsters hope to cheat the charges.”

A policy from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) stipulates that if a driver is stopped more than once with a plate which doesn’t meet regulations, the registration should be rescinded.

In this case, the driver would be issued with a new, random number plate.

This is done so all number plates meet the UK’s regulations and can be more easily identified by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

A quick Google search can lead drivers to find fake number plates, which could potentially be used to navigate around the charges.

There have been a number of instances where drivers have been wrongly fined for supposedly driving inside a clean air zone.

Richard Gregory-Gibbons, from Staffordshire, says a driver with the exact same car and same licence plate is frequently travelling through Birmingham’s CAZ zone and claims his registration plate was “cloned”.

This case of mistaken identity has left him inundated with penalty charge notices (PCN).

In August, he had received almost 30 letters and needed to appeal each fine individually via the council’s website.

He received six letters in just one day – three of which were for bus lane fines and one warning letter from the clean air zone.

Another driver, Ruth Costello from West Sussex, said she had been receiving the £120 penalty charge notices (PCNs) since the launch of Birmingham’s CAZ in June.

The motorist, who lives 160 miles away from Birmingham, received 19 fines totalling £2,280, despite having never driven in the city.

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