Number plate ‘cloning’ is on the rise in France

21 March 2020
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The “cloning” of vehicle number plates – when crooks copy and use the plates of vehicles of the same type and colour as their own to escape speeding and parking tickets – is on the rise.

Forty-eight people were caught driving vehicles with cloned number plates in France in 2018, the most recent official figures, up from 34 in 2017.

The number of offenders who escape detection each year is estimated at several thousand.

Those offenders who were caught were fined – the maximum fine is €4,500 – had six points taken off the licences, and, in some cases, had their vehicles confiscated.

When new “tower” speed traps reach their full potential, they will send alerts to local police and gendarmes when a vehicle using a suspected cloned number plate passes them.

Official advice if someone has cloned your plates is to change your carte grise registration document and get new plates.

A new streamlined online service has been set up on the French government's website to allow people to do this.

The first step is to report the incident to the gendarmerie or police station, which means your car’s number plates are entered into a database of usurped plates.

If you become aware that your plates have been cloned through a speed camera-generated fine, the procedure requires you to get the photograph of the vehicle which was caught before you contest the fine.

In such cases, you no longer have to pay the fine first before you can appeal to have it annulled.

However, some victims still have to pay up before they can challenge the fines.

A couple living near Bergerac discovered their vehicle’s number plate had been cloned when they were issued with a parking ticket by a town in Corsica, where they have never been.

They have been waiting six months for a refund of the fine, which they had to pay before they could appeal. Angela Tyszka and her partner Thomas Webb thought it was a fine from Bergerac when they saw the envelope.

Luckily for them, on the day the offence was recorded, they attended a meal in their village, so they got a statement from the mayor saying they could not have been in Corsica.

They had also just taken the vehicle, a white Peugeot Partner van, for a contrôle technique. That gave them a verified kilometre reading for the vehicle, which showed they could not have driven it across France to a ferry port.

Angela said: “When we got the ticket, we spoke to the people in Corsica and sent them the documents and they agreed the fine should not have been issued.

“But by then the centralised system had got hold of it and we had no option but to pay, and send all the documents again to the centralised fine management system.”

Tractor owners get ticket for speeding at 146kph

Owners of this tractor got a ticket for speeding at 146kph on a Spanish road with a limit of 120kph earlier this year in a number plate fraud.

The farming association from Retiers in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, said no one in the team had been to Spain recently and joked that they had no idea the vehicle could go so fast.

They posted a photo, left, on their website about the event.

Other readers have been victims of number plate cloning.

Derek Rouse said he received a parking fine in Paris.

On the day the offence in the capital was committed, he attended a hospital appointment at Saint-Jean-d’Angely, Charente Maritime, and local gendarmes helped get the fine dismissed.

He related his misadventure to a local garage owner, who topped the tale by revealing that a classic 1950s Citroën on display in his garage, which had not moved for 15 years, had also received parking fines from Paris.

Not every example is intentionally criminal. Philip Wood, from Rochechouart in Haute Vienne, hired a car at Orly airport.

On returning the car, he noticed it had different numberplates on the front and back, and mentioned it to the rental firm.

Months later, he got a parking fine in Paris for a time when the car was in the Dordogne.

The culprit turned out to be someone who had hired an identical car which had the matching pair of wrong numberplates.

He said: “It seems a mechanic had been given number plates to screw on cars and screwed the wrong plates on two of them.”

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