Warning to motorists that ‘thousands of cars are being cloned’

Some car telematics devices can be monitored from your mobile phone.

Some car telematics devices can be monitored from your mobile phone.

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Motorists are being warned that ‘car cloning’ is believed to be on the rise and drivers could be at risk of fines as criminals substitute the identity of vehicles using stolen vehicle data.

Car cloning is a serious offence which involves the theft of a vehicle’s identity including the registration number and vehicle identification number (VIN). These details can be used on other similar vehicles, which are then sold for profit or utilised for petty theft or organised crime.

It is thought thousands of vehicles are cloned annually, costing motorists hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines while enabling criminals to break the law at will and get away with it.

Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at anti-motor fraud specialists Asset Protection Unit (APU), said: “We’ve seen a number of similar cases surface recently and the worry is that cloning could be back on the rise again.

“It’s usually linked to large-scale organised crime, and it’s hard to stamp out because the clone is registered to the innocent owner’s address so you have to catch the crooks out on the road.

“However, we believe criminals are increasingly using cloned cars so that innocent drivers shoulder the blame for their inexcusable driving.”

One driver who became the victim of car cloners, but wishes to remain anonymous, explained how he was hit with a £100 fine for speeding in a city he hadn’t visited for years.

Fortunately for the driver, his vehicle was fitted with a telematics device and he was able to prove that his hire vehicle - a BMW 2 Series - was 140 miles away at the time of the incident.

“I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I first opened the letter saying I’d been caught speeding in a city I hadn’t even visited for years,” he said..

“At first you question yourself but ultimately I knew I hadn’t been there, and certainly not to break the speed limit.”

Telematics devices, also known as ‘black boxes’, are used by many fleet management firms and some insurers to keep track of vehicle location, how long a vehicle has been driving for, acceleration, braking and cornering.

Some insurance providers offer policies which offer reduced premiums for drivers willing to install a telematics device to monitor their driving.

Driver IQ, a site which offers a platform of online tools designed to help young drivers, expects that one in four car insurance policies will be telematics based by 2020, while the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba) says that sales of black box insurance policies have increased five-fold in the past two years and are expected to reach 500,000 in the next two years.

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