What is number plate fraud?
Number plate theft or fraud, also known as cloning, or doublette in French, happens when a scammer reproduces another vehicle’s number plate onto a similar make and model of car.
This is often done to avoid fines, especially from speed cameras.
Number plate theft is a criminal offence in France and those convicted of doing it can face up to seven years in prison or a €30,000 fine.
They could also face anything from losing six points from their licence to having their vehicle confiscated.
How widespread is it?
The data is conflicting but there are more than 20,000 such offences each year in France.
According to France’s national interministerial road safety observatory, Observatoire national interministériel de la sécurité routière, there were 25,732 recorded offences of driving with false number plates in 2021.
This is up from just over 20,700 in 2019. While the 2019 figure was down 11.6% compared with 2018, it marked a 53% rise over 10 years.
However, Le Figaro has reported (in French) slightly different figures. It says there were nearly 20,000 instances of the crime last year, “a rise of 28% on the previous year”.
Are any vehicles particularly targeted?
Unfortunately, any vehicle can fall victim to number plate fraud. However, popular car brands are likely to be more liable to have their number plates duped, as thieves will easily be able to find the same model.
How do you know if you have been a victim of number plate fraud?
According to the official government website service-public.fr, one way to tell if you have been a victim of number plate fraud is if you receive one or more tickets for speeding or other traffic offences that you know you did not commit.
If this happens to you, the best thing to do is act immediately.
What to do if you are a victim of licence plate fraud
If you suspect you are a victim of license plate fraud, you should lodge a complaint as soon as possible to contest the fine, according to the government.
You should lodge the complaint at your local police station or nearest gendarmerie for the theft of your number plate.
You will receive a receipt for the complaint, which you can use to contest the speeding fine or other traffic offence you have received.
How to contest a traffic fine linked to false number plates
If you receive a fine for speeding or another traffic offence - such as running a red light - that you did not commit, you should contest it immediately.
If you contest the fine, the process is paused while your claim is considered. Bear in mind that paying the fine is seen as an admission that you committed the offence so, if you suspect vehicle registration fraud, do not go down this route.
You must contest the fine within 45 days of receiving it (30 days if it is an increased fixed fine).
You can easily contest by lodging a “pré-plainte” online here. You will then need to make an appointment at your nearest police station or gendarmerie to sign your complaint.
When making your complaint, include any supporting documents to prove you were not at the scene of the offence. These could include train or plane tickets, toll receipts, hotel bills, or statements from your employer.
If the offence was captured by an automatic radar, you need to request a photo and provide it when you file your complaint. You can request the photo from the Centre automatisé de constatation des infractions routières (Cacir) online here.
When making the photo request, you will need the following documents:
- Vehicle registration document (carte grise)
- Identity document
- Notice of fine
How to apply for a new vehicle registration document (carte grise)
If you have been the victim of vehicle registration fraud you can apply for a new vehicle registration document (carte grise), which will include a new vehicle registration number (numéro d’immatriculation).
You can apply online via the l'Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS) website.
You will need to use your ANTS or FranceConnect account. You will also require a digital version of the complaint – a photo or scan will do.
You will receive:
- A file number
- An acknowledgement that you have registered your application
- A provisional registration certificate. Print this out. It allows you to drive for one month in France only until you receive your vehicle registration document
- You will receive your new vehicle registration document (carte grise) in a secure envelope by recorded delivery to your home address.
- You can track the progress online here - https://immatriculation.ants.gouv.fr/
How much does a new vehicle registration document cost?
If your licence plates have been stolen, you can obtain a new vehicle registration document for free. You must show a receipt of your complaint to do so. You will have to pay a €2.76 delivery charge.
You are also responsible for the cost of having your new number plates made and attached to your vehicle.
Tips on how to avoid number plate fraud
While number plate fraud can be hard to predict or avoid, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Add something distinctive to your car such as stickers. These could help prove the car with the stolen plates is not yours.
- Tempted to show off your new car on social media? Make sure not to include the number plate – either by keeping it out of the shot or blurring the numbers using an editing programme such as Photoshop.
- Selling your car online? Similarly, do not upload a photo in which the number plate can be read. Blur it out, as this is a common way scammers find number plates.
If you have been a victim of number plate fraud in France we would like to hear from you. Contact us via email@example.com.