The Kenya Bureau of Standards seized a Range Rover HSE 2021 model, suspected of being a clone from the United Kingdom and valued at over 26 million shillings.
The pricey vehicle was intercepted during a routine inspection at Mombasa’s regional logistics center container freight station.
What exactly is car cloning?
Did you know that criminals can clone your car? Here’s everything you need to know about car cloning, including how to determine if a vehicle has been cloned.
When a car is given a copied or stolen license plate to make it look like another car with the same make, model, and color, this is known as car cloning, also known as vehicle identity theft.
The owner of the car with the legally registered license plate will be held responsible if any crimes or offenses involving the cloned vehicle are reported, concealing the identity of the real criminal.
The car might be used by criminals to evade speeding tickets and parking fines. They might even sell a stolen car to an unwary buyer using fake license plates.
Worse still, they could use the cloned car to carry out more serious crimes like bank robberies.
How does car clone work?
Criminals use new, illegally obtained license plates that exactly match the legally registered license plate of a car that is the same make, model, and color as the car they have stolen or salvaged to create a clone of the vehicle.
As a result, the original, legitimately registered car and the cloned car both have the same registration number as other vehicles on the road.
The address of the legally registered owner of the cloned car, not the actual criminal, will be provided to the authorities in the event that a cloned vehicle is used in a crime or the driver violates the law.
When you go to a Registered Number Plate Supplier (RNPS) to register ownership of a new number plate, you must present your identification as well as the vehicle’s V5C registration certificate as proof of ownership.
This can be avoided by criminals by:
- Buying phony license plates that look like authentic registration plates.
- Going through dishonest online sellers who permit them to purchase a real plate without providing the required proof of ownership.
- Removing a registered license plate in person from another car. It’s likely that a car you come across has been chosen by thieves to be copied if the number plates are missing.
Sophisticated criminals may also create fake registration documents, such as the car’s V5C, in order to conceal the true identity of their vehicle clone.
They could also change the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) by replacing parts of the car. Also known as the chassis number, this unique 17-digit number can be found on the frame of the vehicle and is like the vehicle’s fingerprint.
How to check if your car is a clone
You won’t usually realise you’re a victim of car cloning until you receive a visit from the police regarding a crime associated with your registration number. Or you might start getting penalty notices about traffic offences or congestion charges that are not related to you.
If your number plates are ever stolen, contact the police immediately.
If you do receive speeding tickets or other fixed penalty notices for your car, check them carefully rather than simply paying up. You may not be the one who’s responsible.
What happens if I buy a clone?
If you buy a cloned car, you’re likely to lose both the car and the money you paid for it. The police will normally want to question you about the sale and get as much information from you about the seller as possible. They can also seize the vehicle.
Some buyers of cloned vehicles have also found that not long after purchase their car has been stolen. The cloners have kept a key and driven the vehicle away to try the trick on another unsuspecting buyer.
If you’re buying a used car, make sure you do all the necessary checks. If a car’s being sold without V5C registration documents or a service history, that’s a definite red flag. Don’t go ahead. Look for another vehicle with the correct documentation. It isn’t worth the risk.
But a vehicle’s documents can also be forged, so be vigilant.
In some cases, your insurance provider might be able to offer legal assistance to help recover the money paid for the car from the seller. However, this largely depends on your policy coverage and the potential success of any claim made.
What should I do ?
If you receive fines you know you don’t deserve, here’s what to do:
Return any fines or notices to the relevant issuing authorities with any evidence you might have to prove the fines aren’t yours, such as CCTV footage, daschcam footage, GPS data from your car or witness statements that prove you – and your car – weren’t in the area at the time stated on the notice.
Let the police know so they can attempt to trace and prosecute the culprit.
Contact the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and explain the situation. Include the crime reference number given to you by police.
Contact your insurance provider to tell them that your car is a clone.
If your registration number has been cloned, you might consider getting a new private registration number. This could help you reduce the chance of receiving future fines or penalty notices in the mail.
If you’re buying a used car, here’s what to look for:
Is the car suspiciously cheap? If you come across a car that’s way below the market price, it should ring alarm bells.
Before you go to see a car, ask the seller for the registration number, make and model, and MOT test number. You can then check online to see if the details you’ve been given match DVLA information. If anything doesn’t match, it’s a good sign that something might be amiss.
When you go to see the vehicle, a couple of simple checks will also help you avoid a cloned car:
Check the logbook – it contains your V5C vehicle registration certificate. Make sure the number plates in the document and on the car match. Check that it has the right ‘DVL’ watermark to prove that the logbook is genuine.
Look at the serial number. The DVLA advises that you should check that the number: “is not between BG8229501 to BG9999030, or BI2305501 to BI2800000. If it is, the V5C might be stolen – call the police as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Ask to view the car at the address listed on the logbook and when you get there, check it’s the same one. Make sure the seller’s address on the logbook matches the one on their driving licence or utility bill. Asking to check may put potential fraudsters off selling to you too.
Don’t buy a car in a car park, lay by or motorway service area – these are favorite spots for fraudsters with a ready excuse about why they are not doing it from home.
Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number and make sure these match the logbook. The VIN is usually stamped into the chassis of the vehicle, and it may also be on the bonnet, the dashboard and the driver’s door. Some cars also have their registration number etched into the window glass.
If so, check to see if it matches or has been tampered with.
Check the vehicle’s other documentation for example does the seller have its service history and receipts for work? Do the receipts match the seller’s name and address? Is the mileage on any of these documents consistent with the vehicle’s mileage?
Genuine sellers won’t mind you checking this kind of thing – and usually expect it.
Even if all looks good on the surface, just to be sure, don’t pay for a car with cash – even if they offer you a discount. A bank transfer or other traceable payment method will be easier for the police to track. If the car turns out to be stolen after all, they’ll have a better chance of catching the fraudster responsible.