What is car cloning?
Vehicle cloning is when someone puts your car registration number on theirs, and passes their car as if it's yours. Usually, they will go so far as to pick a car that's the same model and colour as yours.
They are basically stealing the identity of your car to hide the real identity for one which may be stolen. That will then make it look completely legal.
Why do criminals clone cars?
The simple reason is that it helps to hide the real identity of their (probably stolen) car. It's unlikely they will be stopped by the police as (on the surface) everything looks fine. Any automated number plate (ANPR) cameras will only check the registration number. ANPR cameras are generally used to monitor traffic offences such as speeding, tax, MoT, insurance, etc. There's no way of checking the vehicle has a number plate that belongs to another similar car.
How will I know if my car has been cloned?
You're not likely to know that your car has been cloned, until you receive a fine or penalty charge that you were not expecting. Or perhaps a speeding ticket. Criminals use cloning for all sorts of illegal activities. These could be relatively low level crimes like parking illegally or driving in a bus lane. Or they may be using it to hide their identity in petrol drive-offs. Or other more serious crimes.
If you've received a letter or been contacted about charges which you are not responsible for, it may be because someone else is using your registration number.
How can someone copy my number plate?
The DVLA have put in place rules for having number plates made up. But there are ways in which criminals get around these rules.
Before someone can have number plates made up, the law requires that they show their ID and evidence that they have the right to use the registration number.
But, not all number plate suppliers check these rigorously, especially online. So, unfortunately, this makes it easier for criminals to have any number plate made up. It's also not unknown for thieves to steal number plates direct from a car.
See What to do if my number plates are stolen for more information if this happens to you.
What can I do about it?
If you believe your car has been cloned, the first thing you need to do is contact the police. They will investigate, and give you a crime number. Pull together any evidence you can, to help prove that you were not responsible for any fines etc. It's important that you do report it to the police, just in case the cloners use the vehicle for more criminal activities.
You should then contact the DVLA. Take a look at DVLA leaflet inf104 for full information.