Car number plate warning after woman fined £20k when criminals cloned details

A woman has revealed how she had no idea her number plate was cloned by criminals.

Claire Herron, from Hartlepool, was advertising her Mercedes for sale on Gumtree before she knew she was targeted.

Then speeding fines, congestion charge demands and the threat of arrest warrants began to pour through her letterbox.

It comes after the RAC found thousands were contacted by the DVLA in March 2020 to claim their cars were wrongly linked to offences.

Those figures were almost twice as many cases as the 656 seen in April 2019.

As estimated 40,000 retailers sell number plates in the UK.

Figures from the DVLA revealed just 1,255 vehicles were reported as cloned in financial year 2012/13.

Meanwhile those figures rose to 4,802 in the nine months between April and December 2018.

And the police believe the true number is far higher, with the crime being under reported.

They say car-cloning "will be done with criminal motives in mind" and it occurs when number places are affixed to an identical car.

Usually if it's because the car has been stolen and sometimes to facilitate other criminal activities, like drug-dealing.

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Claire said: "It was Easter Bank Holiday in 2018, I was just opening my post and there was a fine for me supposedly going through a tunnel somewhere just outside London.

"There was a photograph of a car that looked like mine with my plate on, except it wasn't my car and I hadn't been in London.

"I contacted Transport for London straight away and was told it would get sorted out after the Bank Holiday, but it didn't and that was just the start of a very long nightmare.

"The fines just kept coming and coming – parking charges, speeding notices and demands from nearly every borough council in London."

She added: "One was from the City of London Police for driving over London Bridge at 3am, when I was at home in bed in Hartlepool with my car parked outside my house.

"The car was triggering cameras all over and I couldn't stop it.

"I wasn't considered a criminal or a victim and this didn't come under the usual identity theft rules – I was just innocently stuck in this automated system that keeps going and there was nothing I could do to stop it – it was incredibly stressful and shocking."

A charity is now seeking a review of identity theft law because the justice system say no crime had been committed because Claire didn't have any money or physical property taken.

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Safer Communities and its Victim Care and Advice (VCAS) service, which helps support victims of crime across Cleveland, County Durham and Darlington, were contacted by Claire when she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Steve Turner, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, said: "Claire was caught in a nightmare situation, which she didn't cause and from which she struggled to release herself.

"The fact that cloning her car's number plate was not considered an offence and, therefore, Claire was not considered a victim, made no difference to the amount of suffering, which she and her family endured over several months."

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