Number plate fraud: thousands of drivers a year fall victim in France

Fraudsters use fake plates to rack up speeding and parking fines which are then sent to car’s real owner

Motorists are advised that an up-to-date carte grise is invaluable
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Tens of thousands of drivers fall victim to number plate fraud each year, and the trend shows no sign of abating. We look at what to do if it happens to you.

Number plate fraud involves criminals copying someone else’s number plate and putting it on their own vehicle to avoid getting fines. This essentially lets them park without paying and speed without any thought of cameras.

The number of cases has been rising for more than a decade: in 2010 there were 13,574 reported cases but by 2022 this had risen to more than 20,000.

The problem is driven by the ease at which people can buy number plates online, with many sites not requiring proof of vehicle registration.

In a recent case, a woman in the south-west was fined a total of €6,400 for parking violations and speeding in Paris, despite never having been there.

Sylvie Lavaud from Malaville, Charente, has received a total of 64 fines since 2022, the majority of which are for violations in the Paris’ 18th arrondissement.

“I have been challenging them but the administration isn’t accepting it,” she told TF1. “They keep asking for more proof, saying I need to do this and do that.”

Due to the French administration’s slow handling of the 64 fines, Ms Lavaud has been told they are now overdue and must be paid by March 27 - despite the arrest of the criminals who cloned her number plates.

“It’s all automatic systems,” she said. “If I could get hold of a real person and explain all this I could sort it out - I’ve done nothing wrong.”

In part, Ms Lavaud’s problems stem from the fact that she moved house and had not entered the new address on her carte grise - the identity papers of French vehicles.

“If you are a victim of usurpation, you have to have your carte grise up-to-date,” Lawyer Luc Berard, of the Automobile Club du Sud-Ouest told TF1. “This means fines arrive at your address so you can challenge them in the permitted delay.”

“There is always a means to challenge these fines, the law is designed this way”

Read more: PHOTO: Fake gendarmerie car seen in France - with Dutch number plates

What to do if you are a victim of vehicle identity theft?

You have 45 days from receipt of a fine to challenge it - hence the importance of keeping your home address up-to-date on the carte grise.

If you receive a fine that you believe is not justified, do not pay it. If you pay the fine, the matter will be considered closed.

To challenge a fine, you should ask for the photo of the vehicle associated with it. You can do this here.

If the photo confirms your belief that the fine is unjustified, you should then challenge it here.

You should then press charges for number plate fraud. You do not have to know who is responsible for this, the photographic evidence along with proof that you were elsewhere should suffice (witness testimony, telephone records, etc).

You can press charges for number plate fraud here. Once you have filled in the online form, you will be contacted by your local gendarmerie or Police nationale.

Number plate fraud is a serious offence, and can lead to in seven years of prison, a fine of €30,000 and a six point driving licence penalty

Read more:

French driving licences: how to check if you have any points

Dashcams: do French courts and insurance firms accept the images?