New research from the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) suggests that one in 12 of the UK's 37 million vehicles could have cloned number plates, the Telegraph reports.
Cloned registration plates are when a car's actual identity is disguised through the false use of an authorised registration or when characters are amended to create a non-existent registration. The vast majority of these plates are associated with serious criminal activity.
According to police, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras spot thousands of cloned plates every day.
Police believe they are used in an attempt to avoid detection when stealing petrol, parking illegally, speeding or committing more serious offences, such as burglary or robbery, IAATI director, Dr Ken German said.
It is estimated that around 1.75 million of the 37 million vehicles in the UK, of which cars account for around 32 million, have cloned registration plates. Vehicles of all types are taken into account, including cars, motorcycles, HGVs, vans, caravans, motor homes, plant and agricultural machinery.
Of this figure, 250,000 are vehicles that were reported stolen last year and 500,000 were written off by insurers.
Of the remaining one-in-12 total, which is believed to be around 1.25 million vehicles, there are legitimate registrations that have been tampered with so they read differently.
It is believed there are also a million vehicles that have still not been recovered from the last decade.
Have you been the victim of a cloned number plate?