New safety and security technology has caused criminals to become more inventive than ever before. It’s a trend that has become popular among criminals – the cloning of car registration plates.
Vehicle-related crime in South Africa is on the rise and the list of offences goes beyond hijackings and vehicle theft. While it may not be as widely reported as other crimes, cloning of vehicle registration plates affects many South African motorists, reports Law for All.
How prolific is plate cloning in SA?
Law For All recently reported that much like identity theft, cloning of a car’s registration plate means that a criminal can pass off your information and details as their own, and this has widespread consequences.
“While exact statistics aren’t available for the nationwide prevalence of registration plate cloning, it’s been reported that around 1 in 5 vehicles in Gauteng have had their plates copied. These duplicates are used by other motorists to avoid paying traffic fines and e-toll fees, and it’s frightfully easy to obtain a fake registration plate.”
“Various investigations from local news outlets have uncovered that fraudulent registration plates can be obtained relatively easily. Apparently, it is as easy as walking into an SABS-approved shop and ordering one – without having to produce an ID or license disc. Of course, there are a number of ‘backstreet’ outlets that sell fake plates as well,” reported Law For All.
How does a cloned registration plate affect motorists?
According to Law For All Managing Director, advocate Jackie Nagtegaal, any traffic fine (whether parking, speeding or e-toll penalty) that is incurred by the criminal using a fake registration plate will fall to the legitimate owner of the vehicle to pay.
“The onus is on the legal owner of the vehicle to prove his or her innocence. This also means that motorists could face potential criminal charges if the fines go unpaid for a long period of time. In short, motorists can ‘commit crimes’ without their knowledge,” warns Nagtegaal.
Additionally, unresolved fines could result in motorists not being able to renew their vehicle’s licence disc.
What can you do if your vehicle’s registration plate has been cloned?
Contact the authorities
It’s best to report the matter. Head to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and open a case. It’s also advisable to inform the local metro police and traffic officials.
When it comes to dealing with traffic fines accumulated by a fraudulent plate, it’s recommended to contact the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). One of the agency’s objectives is to ‘ensure that individuals understand their rights and options’ when it comes to issues relating to road violations. Any fine that is issued by AARTO must be disputed via its online query system.
In both instances, it’s likely to be a long and frustrating process, so be prepared.
How to ensure you don’t purchase a car with cloned registration plates
Motorists can do their bit to help ensure this issue isn’t perpetuated by following the following tips:
• Only purchase a vehicle from a reputable dealer
• Do not purchase a car that does not have an owner’s manual or service book
• Double check that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) corresponds with the chassis number (look for signs of potential tampering as well)
• Ensure that the car has two sets of keys and that both sets work on the ignition and doors
• Ask for a private seller’s proof of registration and residence before buying a car with cash
Vehicle-related crime won’t be slowing down any time soon, so it’s always best to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity as soon as possible.
Source: Women on Wheels