Drivers issued urgent warning of number plate cloning risk amid fears Ulez is making problem worse

Drivers issued urgent warning of number plate cloning risk amid fears Ulez is making problem worse

WATCH: Richard Holden hosts the last number plate auction

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 09/04/2024

- 10:17

Updated: 09/04/2024

- 23:15

'Individuals with vehicles which don’t meet pollution standards are tempted to use cloned plates'

Drivers are being warned of a growing issue with number plate cloning as experts suggest that the Ulez expansion and Clean Air Zones could be contributing to the problem.

Following the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and the rollout of new Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones, experts are warning that number plate cloning has become a “pernicious side effect”.

The emissions-based charging areas use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, which has inadvertently caused some drivers to be slapped with fines despite not entering the zones.

This has led to instances of drivers from Kent being fined for having a non-compliant vehicle in the Birmingham Clean Air Zone, despite having never visited the area.

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Number plate

Experts have warned that number plate cloning could be on the rise


Paul Hill, from National Numbers, highlighted a recent police report which indicated as many as one in 15 drivers may be using doctored plates.

When using cloned number plates, drivers can trick the ANPR cameras into thinking they are actually driving a different vehicle and avoiding the daily charge and any subsequent fines.

It can also allow drivers to avoid fines for common moving traffic offences like speeding, ignoring a red light and driving in a bus lane.

Hill has also suggested that the DVLA could see an uptick in the number of complaints received about drivers being hit with warning letters, fines and other penalties for other vehicles displaying their number plate.

He added: “Cameras are used to monitor motorists compliance with the scheme but there have been more than 1,000 ULEZ cameras stolen or damaged in recent months with criminal damage cases being pursued in many instances.

‘’The manufacture and supply of number plates is a regulated activity in the UK. However, unregulated plates can be produced relatively simply creating an incentive for criminality.

“Individuals with vehicles which don’t meet pollution standards are tempted to use cloned plates as a way of avoiding the emission charge.”

Previous estimates have estimated that the DVLA receives around 1,000 reports of car cloning in a single month.

People who are caught with a cloned number plate could face a community order in addition to fines of up to £1,000.

Data from Transport for London, revealed through a Freedom of Information request, found that more than 6,000 Ulez fines had been rescinded in 2023, and almost 13,000 in 2022 as a result of “cloned registration plates”.

Hill continued, saying: “People have seen cloning as a London issue - but we can expect to see it spread nationwide, as Clean Air Zones are expanded throughout the rest of the country.

“Improving the nation’s health in a way that does not impact punitively or unfairly on motorists is proving a difficult balancing act. Sadly, cloning crime has become a pernicious side effect.”


ANPR speed cameras

Cloned number plates can trick ANPR cameras into giving someone else a fine


Police estimates suggest that there are around 60 million ANPR "reads" every day across the UK, with ANPR data from all forces being held for one year.

It is believed that this is contributing to the growth in number plate cloning as drivers feel they can get away with it across their entire journey.

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