How to protect your number plates (and why it matters)

Some car components are more at risk of theft than others. Catalytic converters, for example, are famously one of the most frequently stolen car components, largely because they contain a variety of precious metals that make them very financially valuable. But amongst the next most-frequently stolen car parts are number plates – so whether you’ve bought your car brand new from a professional dealer or you’ve sourced it from one of our online car auctions here at RAW2K, it’s worth taking steps to protect them. Here’s why!

Why do people steal number plates?

Stealing someone’s number plates is effectively a form of identity theft, not too dissimilar to stealing a passport or photo ID. In many ways, the consequences are the same – the thief can commit certain crimes at their leisure under the cover of the false ID, leaving the actual owner to get the blame.

You’re already familiar with how this can cause people trouble with their banking or credit reports, for example. When it comes to cars, false number plates can give thieves protection against CCTV and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) systems.

Criminals often use number plates for a variety of offences, ranging from petty infractions to more serious crimes:

• Dodging congestion charges, and / or fines for parking or speeding

• Driving off from petrol stations without paying

• Changing the identity of a stolen car, giving them free reign to sell it on

• Using the car for a ram-raid or burglary, preventing it from being tracked by police afterward

All that means that if your number plates ever are actually stolen, then it’s wise to get in touch with the police as soon as you can. Otherwise, it’s possible you may start getting speeding fines or parking fines through the door (in the best-case scenario!).

How to protect your number plates

Happily, most steps you can take to protect your number plates are quite straightforward, and most of them line up with the advice you’ll have heard to protect other components, such as your catalytic converter.

Park in your garage at night if possible

This is one of the most reliable ways of ensuring security for your number plates. Thieves typically resort to stealing number plates from vehicles in a quiet corner of the car park, and ideally as quickly as possible. If your car is hidden away in a garage though, this poses several issues for them right off the bat.

First of all, they may not even have any way of knowing if the garage is occupied. Even if they do know your car is inside, there’s now an added layer of complexity and difficulty to the job, and that lone is enough to make many prospective thieves decide that it’s just not worth it.

Choose busy and well-lit street parking spots

The same rules apply – thieves like to work quickly, and they don’t like to have an audience. Well-lit parking spots situated near lots of foot traffic are effective at preventing theft because they make the car difficult to get to unseen – and even more difficult to lurk around it without looking openly suspicious.

Consider using security screws

You can attach (or re-attach) your number plate using security screws – these are designed to be easily turned when using a certain screwdriver to fit them, but they can’t be undone nearly as easily with normal tools. Most thieves are opportunists anyway, but even those who come relatively prepared with their own toolbox might find that even if they’re able to undo these security screws, the task can put an extra few minutes onto the job – and those extra minutes could make all the difference as to whether or not they’re caught.

Theft-resistant number plates

These are a little more costly than regular number plates, but they can provide some valuable peace of mind – especially if you’ve already had yours stolen once before. Theft-resistant number plates do exactly what they say on the tin; they’re specifically designed to resist the most heavily favoured thieving techniques, and they’ll even break apart when someone tries to remove them with force.

That’s not going to make for a pleasant discovery when you return to your car, but at least you can have peace of mind that you won’t be getting some very worrying letters from various authorities in the near future, accusing you of petty or serious vehicle crimes that you didn’t do.

Although it’s very annoying – and can be moderately expensive – thankfully stolen number plates are a relatively minor issue to fix in the long run. But if your car ever suffers any other kind of damage that prompts you to decide you don’t want to drive it anymore, you can always get a tidy sum for it in one of our online vehicle auctions here at RAW2K. We cater to professional mechanics, hobbyists and new drivers alike, so there’s always a decent chance someone will be interested in your old car, no matter what sort of state it’s in.

Ready to find out how to auction your car?