Dan Powell, editor of Honest John Vans, lifts the lid on the latest crime wave that’s targeting motorists.
A growing number of tradespeople are being targeted by criminals in a new UK crime wave that’s sweeping vast parts of London. Van drivers are being hit with unfair penalty charge notices (PCNs) for offences they did not commit due to a wave of vehicle cloning, according to new official data.
Vehicle cloning can take various forms with a criminal either physically stealing the number plate or having a fake plate illegally made to put on another van. Cloned number plates are typically used on vehicles that are stolen, unroadworthy or used in illegal activity.
The latest Transport for London (TfL) data for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has revealed a huge rise in the number of vehicle cloning cases, with criminals using fake identities to rack up huge fines and drive in the capital’s clean air zone without paying the daily fee.
In April 2022, the number of PCNs being cancelled was 857% higher than in the same month in 2021. And there has been a 631% increase in PCNs being overturned due to cloning since the ULEZ was expanded in October 2021.
A van driver with a ULEZ PCN will typically be hit with a £160 fine by TfL, which will be reduced to £80 paid within 14 days.
Vehicle cloning is part of a wider increase in vehicle crime. In England and Wales, there has been a 7% rise in vehicle theft, with one area reporting a 37% spike since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
In the event of a PCN being issued due to a cloned van, the legitimate registered keeper will need to provide evidence to prove their van was not at the time and place where the alleged offence occurred.
What should I do if I think I’ve been a victim of van cloning?
Report it to the police and the DVLA. A marker will be added to the Police National Computer and the police will stop any vehicle that displays a duplicate number plate. You should also notify the DVLA – they may issue your van with a replacement number plate.
How can I appeal a parking ticket or penalty charge if my vehicle has been cloned?
Do not pay. Instead, appeal the penalty charge notice as detailed on the back of the ticket. You usually get 28 days to appeal and should explain why you are not responsible for the fine, whilst providing any evidence you have to back up your claim.
If you have a police incident number or a crime reference then make sure you include this as part of the formal appeal.
Sometimes the cloned vehicle will not match the colour or make/model of the vehicle that has been cloned. Likewise, if you have evidence that you were in a different part of the country then include this as part of your appeal.
If your formal challenge is rejected you will have another 28 days to either pay the PCN or appeal to an independent tribunal. It is free to take your case to an independent tribunal.
Honest John Vans is the website that champions fairness for van owners by publishing expert, unbiased information to help tradespeople make informed choices about their vehicles