15 March 2016

Motor fraud specialist warns of rise in car cloning

Investigators at anti-motor fraud specialist Asset Protection Unit (APU) have warned that car cloning could be on the increase again after a driver escaped a fine and points on his licence in the wake of proving his innocence through analysis of a hire vehicle's telematics data.

The unnamed driver, from Wembley, London, was accused of speeding in Lincoln in November last year even though the vehicle thought to be involved, a BMW 2 Series, was actually still in Wembley.

The police issued the fine of £100 and three penalty points when a vehicle was caught by a fixed speed camera in Lincoln travelling at 35 mph on a 30 mph stretch of road.

However, the rental car was equipped with a telematics device which proved the vehicle was in fact located over 150 miles away at the time of the alleged offence, meaning the vehicle had been cloned.

Data generated by the telematics device was interrogated by APU experts who wrote to the police to provide evidence in support of the driver’s denial he was at the wheel. The police later dropped the case.

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at APU, said: ‘It’s very satisfying to help out innocent motorists of course, but the real worry here is that it’s almost certain the vehicle in question has been cloned.

‘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.’

Car cloning is a serious offence which involves the theft of a vehicle’s identity including the registration number and vehicle identification number (VIN). Those 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.