Car cloning reaches record high in London as crime wave hits

Published 20 August 2019

London is experiencing a car cloning crime wave, with one area recording an increase of 697 per cent over the past five years, according to official figures. sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every borough council in greater London and found that the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) being cancelled by local authorities due to car cloning has skyrocketed.

>>> Where are London's car cloning hotspots?

Cloning, whereby cars display the identity of identical vehicles to avoid fines, road tax, insurance or engage in unlawful activity, is one of the fastest growing types of car-related crime. Criminals are copying legitimate registration plates and using the fake identities to drive similar cars that may be stolen and/or involved in unlawful activity. contacted all of London’s 33 borough councils, but less than half were able to fulfil the FOI data demand. 

Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Islington, Greenwich and Southwark were among the councils that rejected the FOI request, because they do not have systems in place to record PCN cancellations due to the vehicle being a clone.

Clone 2

As well as not recording cases of car cloning, it is also unclear if councils report the crimes to the relevant authorities. Tower Hamlets told that it has no system currently in place to report cloned vehicles to the DVLA. It also said it does not contact the police, as no crime has been committed against the council. 

>>> Car cloning and the history check loopholes you need to be aware of

Worryingly, just a small fraction of car cloning cases are ever investigated, with an FOI request to the Metropolitan Police revealing that 78 offences were investigated during the whole of 2018.

In contrast, Hackney Council saw the highest number of cloned cars in a single 12-month period with 1160 instances recorded between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019.

Harrow Council recorded 350 cases of car cloning in 2018/19, a figure that’s 91 per cent higher than the previous 12 months. Waltham Forest experienced the largest increase over a five-year period with the number of cancelled PCNs soaring by 697 per cent.

The true figure for the number of cloned cars on the road in greater London is thought to be much higher than the figures uncovered by, given the complex and often lengthy nature of the PCN appeals process.


Falkirk Bairn    on 20 August 2019

Keyless entry - a solution to a problem that did not exist

Martin Freye    on 20 August 2019

Keep a written tally of where you are so that you can record where are you I've been in case you are cloned

Howard Millichap    on 20 August 2019

Not Rocket science this. Whenever a draconian charge is introduced, be it tax on goods or the congestion charge, people will do their utmost to get round paying it. Whether it's a booze cruise to France for cheap beer in the 90s and 00s or across the border for cheaper fuel for those living near Luxembourg. And now we see more car cloning to avoid the outrageous congestion/pollution charge. Doh!

Don1988    on 20 August 2019

Perhaps in the future every car could have a chip embedded deep in the chassis which transmits a unique code which can be reconciled to the Reg and Chassis number.

If the chip is tampered with in any way it automatically deletes the code so any replacement chip would be rendered useless.

PCN cameras would then only flag a car if either the code didn't match or there was no transmission.

Of course this looking ahead decades as it would take a long time for all the present fleet to be replaced although private retro fitting for concerned owners could be made available and details sent to the DVLC for registration.

Beaker4444    on 20 August 2019

If you have Google maps on your phone and you let it track you, you can show where you were at any given time.

paul robert watson    on 20 August 2019

When you think these little oikes giving out the tickets have nothing
better to do you would think they could report the car to the DVLA at
the very least.

Byron Tann    on 20 August 2019

Just another case of being guilty until proven innocent. The guilty get away with it whilst the innocent party is left with all the work and the worry. Surely this is becoming a human rights issue all brought on by automation, computers and laziness by authorities.
Maybe we should return to clamping or proper policing.

The_Rev    on 21 August 2019

totally agree & fuelled by the greed of councils.

aethelwulf    on 20 August 2019

Pity the crooks do not use a police car as the clone. perhaps they would do something then? But I doubt it. Much better to look at twitter and prosecute people on there, do it without getting out of a chair.

gavsmit    on 20 August 2019

I'm just wondering what else needs to happen to the decent, law-abiding, hard working people of this nation to finally tip them over the edge.

Wacky politics (helped by the agenda-driven biased media), revenue generation under the overused excuses of safety and the environment, and sub-standard / inadequately tested / poorly thought out technology has allowed criminals and downright evil people do whatever they like without punishment whilst good people get a kicking when they don't deserve it!

   on 20 August 2019

I remember a report a few years back about speeding cameras. I can't fully recall the figures now but it was something like 25% of the number plates were either found to be cloned or simply had no registered keeper. So the law abiding (apart from speeding I suppose) owners got fined but when asked what happened about the others the police replied "Oh, we bin them". So, as always, the law abiding suffer and the criminals don't. Twas ever thus!

CanAmSteve    on 20 August 2019

Th eDVLA's failure to fix the huge loophole of how numberplates are made available encourages this issue. No other jurisdiction fobs off numberplate creation and distribution to myriad third parties. I just ordered replacement plates from Ireland with absolutely no check of logbook details. It's a farce

999pez    on 21 August 2019

Yes it's too easy to buy plates. I bought a replacement plate from Ebay and the seller put in the text that I would need to supply a copy of the V5 but they never asked for it.

madf    on 23 August 2019

Simple solution :ALL cloned cars are seizes and crushed with drivers inside.

Chris C    on 23 August 2019

Bring back the tax disc (IMO this has contributed a lot to the increase in cloning) but with a hard to copy/forge hologram or similar. And devote some of these mythical extra 20,000 police to doing something about it. Don't crush a cloned car - chances are it's stolen and should be returned to its original owner/resold to reduce insurance premiums.

Edited by Chris C on 23/08/2019 at 22:47

SteveLee    on 25 August 2019

This article is obviously bunkum because New Labour made undocumented licence plate manufacture illegal - obviously criminals and speed camera evaders wouldn't dream of obtaining number plates from undocumented sources or even (gasp) make the 'plates themselves - let alone thinking of stealing registration plates off of the original vehicles in the first place.

Modern governments of all shades have given up fighting what they regard as "trivial" or "low-level" crime - the reason? (cynical mode) It's blooming good for tax receipts - damn the taxpayers. Low level crime means windows need fixing/replacing (kurchinnngg), new cars sold to replace stolen ones (kurchinnngg), vandalised property requires repairing (kurchinnngg) - new mobile phones sold to replace stolen ones (kurchinnngg), (taxed) insurance premiums rise (kurchinnngg) - why would any of our recent globalist, career-politician governments spend some of our money on reducing crime or (god forbid) locking up persistent "petty" criminals to protect the taxpayers they're supposed to represent, when they can use our cash to virtue signal by giving billions away as foreign aid? Much better value in the social media era donchathink?

David Chinchen    on 20 October 2019

Really concerned at the growth in vehicle cloning. Needs some proper research and practical detection options urgently. It appears to me that no one is gripping this. We are talking about a growing number of uninsured, un-taxed, stolen vehicles being driven with little possibility of detection. Assuming that plates are stolen in one place for use on a clone in another place, it should only take a system of mandatory reporting by Councils to the DVLA for failed PCNs (confirmed clones) to place a marker on the index specific to hits in a certain area. This would remove risk to the genuine owner and increase the likelihood of the clone being stopped using fixed and mobile ANPR.

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