License Plate Scams

When license plates are ordered from private firms, license plate scams can easily proliferate.

License Plate Scams sign on European car

Why Do Crooks Steal License Plates?

Wherever you reside, there are petty criminals who steal license plates. There is something of a black market for them. Thieves who commit larceny and bank robberies will want to switch the license plates on their cars with stolen ones in order to make it more difficult to track them down. Thieves who steal cars will obviously seek to do that as well. 

The easiest way to avoid the theft of your own license plates is to affix them using special anti-theft screws. In certain countries, anti-theft license plates that shatter when removed are available for an additional (and usually hefty) fee.   

License Plate Scams in Europe

In Europe and many countries beyond, the standard procedure is to order vehicular license plates from a registered shop that manufactures them. In North America, the state or provincial motor vehicle authority provides them when owners register their vehicles. The European practice, however, lends itself to exploitation by drivers who engage in license plate scams.

In such countries, dishonest drivers can clone license plates belonging to a different vehicle that happens to be the same make, model and year as their own. After they attach the cloned plates onto their cars they drive as fast as they like along motorways equipped with speed cameras. The police then send the speeding tickets to the owner of the car whose license plate was cloned. And since these are usually habitual speeders, the cost of these tickets can easily add up.

Similarly, dishonest drivers can rack up similarly huge fines for the victims of their license plate scams by parking illegally. Especially on crowded urban streets. And especially by taking up spaces meant for the handicapped.

Of course, not all license plate scammers get away with it. Some trip up. In England, one such hapless driver was easily caught by police after he inadequately attempted to alter his plate number using a felt-tip pen.

License Plate Scams Beyond Europe

Yes, it can even happen in America. In 2020 a Florida woman bought an automobile from a dealer who affixed a temporary license plate. Soon she began to be billed for turnpike tolls from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. How come? An enterprising license plate scammer copied her temporary plate number, forged a copy and used it on his car, at least when he was driving on toll roads. She was stuck with $1,500 in charges. Those who prefer can avoid cloning license plates themselves and purchase imitations. In February 2020, police in Connecticut discovered a small shop that was selling fake Texas temporary license plates made from paper.

Dishonest Australian drivers employ a variation on the same theme Down Under. No, they don’t pay a shop to forge someone else’s license plates. Instead, they simply print them out on paper using 3D and digital technology. The paper is typically thick and features a sticky back. So the scammers simply stick them on top of their existing license plates. The National Roads Motorists’ Association (NRMA) of Australia reports that apart from speeding and parking tickets, the victims of license plate scams in that country also receive hefty bills for expressway tolls.

Pretty soon, similar license plate scams emigrated across the South Pacific to Fiji. There, local police investigated at least two such cases. In the first, a license plate that belonged to a taxi driver who returned it to the Land Transport Authority somehow surfaced on another vehicle driven by a robber making his getaway. In the second incident, a car was totaled in a traffic accident and towed to the police compound. Afterwards, however, at least two people reported to the police that they saw the same license plate number on two other vehicles.

Finally, let’s now move on to Africa. Kenyan police report that they found that employees of that country’s National Transport and Safety Authority cloned license plates in order to illegally register vehicles for sale. Not only that. The corruption went deeper. These same individuals collaborated with staff at the Kenya Revenue Authority in order to enable criminals and rogue insurance brokers to falsify documents.  It was that collaboration that enabled the license plate scam to succeed. At least until it was uncovered.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a license plate scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.