There has been an alarming increase in car cloning cases in London.

The number of cars being cloned in London has risen by a worrying 50 percent according to figures obtained by HonestJohn.co.uk, and there are fears that this rise could be mirrored across the rest of the country.

The consumer motoring website analysed new figures from Transport for London (TfL) regarding the Congestion Charge zone. The figures revealed a sizeable rise in the number of fines being issued for cloned cars. A cloned car is when criminals copy legitimate registration plates and use the fake identity to drive a similar car that may be stolen, unroadworthy and/or involved in unlawful activity. In 2016 the figure was 1099, but last year that went up to 1652. What's more, in the first half of 2018, those numbers continued to rise – by a half.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said HonestJohn.co.uk’s Managing Editor, Daniel Powell. "On the grounds that it is down to the car owner to prove they are innocent, it would be safe to assume that the true figure for car cloning in London is significantly higher as many drivers will be unable supply the evidence TfL requires to cancel the PCN."

"For those involved it can be a very frightening and stressful experience, because they will be threatened with crippling fines and court action if they cannot provide comprehensive proof that they were not on the capital’s roads. It also raises an important question - how many drivers simply pay the fine to avoid the stress?"

London traffic congestion

"There are a number of steps car owners can take to protect themselves, with the most obvious one being photos of their car to show the subtle differences between the clone and legitimate vehicle. Legal number plates usually have the manufacturer’s logo on them, while the clones are usually blank. CCTV footage will also prove a car’s location at a certain time, along with footage from a dash camera with GPS tracking."

In response,TfL insisted that both the cloned car, and the original are compared by images and that fines are only issued if there is a match, because it is impossible to tell which is the real deal.

London traffic jam at night

"Prior to issuing the PCN we manually verify that the image of the vehicle observed in the zone matches the vehicle information provided by the DVLA," said TfL in response to HonestJohn.co.uk. " Only when there is a match is a penalty issued. At the point of issuing the penalty we would not know if a vehicle had been cloned."

"On receipt of the penalty a motorist can follow the representations and appeals procedure and challenge a PCN. If we receive a representation stating a vehicle has been cloned we request evidence to confirm this."