Criminals are copying number plates, then racking up thousands of dollars in traffic fines. Meanwhile, victims are being told to prove their innocence in court, claims the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC).
Numerous Licensed Motor Car Trader (LMCT) members have reported to VACC that they have received extensive fines. In one case, a Melbourne dealer was fined over $16,000 for a single incidence of number plate cloning.
“Anyone can fall prey to number plate cloning, but those most at risk are vehicle dealers,” said VACC Executive Director, Geoff Gwilym.
The number plate cloning process is unfortunately extremely easy to execute. In some cases it is as unsophisticated as using a home printer and some masking tape.
“Criminals go online, or drive past a dealership, and note the registration of a particular vehicle. They then get these plates copied and go driving all over town in a similar vehicle, accumulating speeding and red light fines, CityLink tolls and parking infringements, all while the original vehicle has been on the dealer’s lot.”
Dealers are particularly vulnerable because vehicles may stay on their business premises for a period of time, allowing criminals to use the cloned registration without detection.
“Victims of this crime often don’t know anything about it until a fine arrives in the mail. By this time, the penalty may be considerable. Several dealer members have reported fines in the thousands of dollars.”
Mr Gwilym recommends to dealers – and motorists – that they carefully check any traffic fines issued and, if they have any doubts, to investigate the alleged infringement immediately.
“Anyone receiving a suspect fine should challenge the decision. Those affected can request of Civic Compliance that they issue photographs of the alleged offence. This can be used in creating a defence. Importantly, bring the indiscretion to the attention of Civic Compliance as soon as possible and build a case.”
To combat this crime, Mr Gwilym suggests that a barcoded sticker, placed on the inside of a vehicle’s windscreen, could be a possible answer.
“VACC calls on the appropriate authorities to investigate all possible solutions to this wide-spread crime that potentially could affect every motorist in Australia,” said Mr Gwilym.
In the meantime, motorists and vehicle dealers appear to be on their own.