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Thieves target car number plates

Motor retailers are being asked to remove the registration plates of used vehicles on forecourts and in advertisements to help police in the fight against cloning.

Detective sergeant Andy Dixon, of Lancashire Police’s stolen car unit, told AM he is tracing a growing number of cloned vehicles, where criminals have taken the registration number of a matching car on a dealer’s forecourt or on a motor trade website.

“One of the reasons why cloners are using dealer stock is that if we stop a car and the driver is not its current keeper, he can claim he’s only just bought it. Also, if they have a stolen white BMW 320d they can do an internet search for similar models on sale and get a registration number in minutes,” says DS Dixon.

He argues that, as many dealers use trade plates for test drives and fit company-branded number plates when the car is sold, removing the original plate before displaying the car should be no inconvenience.

The issue may have ramifications for dealers if they do not act, says Dixon. Once police notify a dealership that a vehicle in stock has been cloned, the dealer is legally bound to inform any potential buyer of the genuine car that another identical vehicle is on the roads. While this will affect the car’s saleability, failure to do so will breach Trading Standards laws.

The odds of cloned vehicles being recognized have increased since adaptation of Automated Number Plate Recognition technology in police cars. Once the police central database identifies a cloned registration number, the owner of the legitimate vehicle is notified.

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