How To Check if Your Car Has Been Cloned

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: January 26, 2024

Car cloning is a criminal activity that has been on the rise in recent years. Similar to identity theft, car cloning involves criminals stealing cars or repairing written-off vehicles, then applying the same identity to legally registered vehicles with the same profile. This is achieved by changing number plates to those of a legally registered vehicle, altering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the illegal car, and forging the logbook.

Car cloning can have serious consequences for innocent car owners, including fines and penalties for offences they did not commit. In this article, we will explore how to check if your car has been cloned and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

What is Car Cloning?

Car cloning is a deceptive practice where criminals manipulate a vehicle’s identity to make it appear as if it is a different, legally registered vehicle. The process involves stealing a car or obtaining a written-off vehicle and then using its identity to mask the true identity of the cloned car. This is done by changing the number plates to those of a legally registered vehicle with a similar profile.

Additionally, the criminals alter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the cloned car and forge the logbook, making it difficult to trace the true identity of the vehicle. Car cloning is often used to hide the identity of stolen cars, making it harder for law enforcement to track them down.

Why do People Clone Cars?

The primary motivation behind car cloning is to hide the true identity of a stolen vehicle. By cloning a car, criminals make it appear as if it is a different vehicle with a legitimate registration. This can help them evade detection by law enforcement, as automated number plate (ANPR) cameras, commonly used in the UK, only check the registration number and not whether the number plate belongs to another car.

Once a car is successfully cloned, it becomes difficult to differentiate it from the legitimate vehicle it is impersonating. This allows criminals to operate the cloned car freely without raising suspicion from the authorities.

How to Know if Your Car has been Cloned

In most cases, it is unlikely that you will know if your car has been cloned until you receive a penalty charge, fine, or speeding ticket for something you are completely unaware of. However, there are a few indicators that can help you determine if your car has been cloned. By being vigilant and taking the following steps, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to car cloning.

Check the Number Plate and Vehicle Identification Number

One of the first steps in checking if your car has been cloned is to compare the number plates on your vehicle with the details in the logbook. Look for any signs of tampering or differences in font, colour, or spacing. Any inconsistencies could be an indication that your car has been cloned. Additionally, verify the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on your car matches the number listed in the logbook. If there are any discrepancies, it is essential to investigate further.

Investigate if the Car has Damaged Number Plates

Inspect the number plates on your car for any signs of damage or alterations. Cloned cars often have number plates that show signs of tampering or manipulation. Look for scratches, adhesive residue, or uneven edges, as these could suggest that the number plates have been changed to conceal the true identity of the vehicle.

Get a Full Car History Check

Obtaining a full car history check is crucial in identifying any discrepancies or suspicious activities associated with your vehicle. Several online services in the UK provide comprehensive car history reports. These reports can reveal important information, such as whether the car has been reported stolen, written off, or involved in any criminal activities. By conducting a thorough stolen car check, you can uncover any potential signs of cloning or fraudulent activity.

What Happens if My Car Has Been Cloned

If you suspect that your car has been cloned, it is crucial to take immediate action. Contact the police and provide them with all the relevant information, including any evidence you have gathered. The police will investigate the matter and provide you with a crime number. It is essential to cooperate fully with the authorities and provide them with any additional information they may require.

In the unfortunate event that your car has been cloned, it is crucial to gather all the evidence at your disposal to prove that you are not liable for any fines or penalty charges that you are not responsible for. This may include documentation such as receipts, photographs of your vehicle, and any communication with the authorities or relevant agencies. Presenting a strong case will help protect your innocence and assist in resolving the situation efficiently.


Car cloning is a serious crime that can have severe consequences for unsuspecting car owners. By familiarizing yourself with the signs of car cloning and taking proactive measures to protect your vehicle’s identity, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to this fraudulent practice. Regularly checking the number plates and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), investigating any damage or alterations to your car’s number plates, and obtaining a comprehensive car check are essential steps in identifying potential car cloning incidents.

If you suspect your car has been cloned, contacting the police and providing them with all the necessary evidence is crucial for initiating an investigation and protecting your rights as a car owner. Stay vigilant and take the necessary precautions to safeguard your vehicle from this form of identity theft.