A new car cloning warning has been issued.
Insurer Direct Line has warned new car drivers to remain vigilant in ensuring their car's registration details are not used by criminals.
It is estimated that 40,000 sets of number plates are stolen annually and these plates may be used to disguise the identity of a stolen vehicle.
“In the current economic climate, thieves are stealing plates to replace their own to conceal their true identities when committing acts of crime such as forecourt petrol theft,” said a Direct Line spokeswoman Frances Browning.
According to the British Oil Security Syndicate, thieves are stealing significant amounts of fuel with the average offender escaping with £35 worth of petrol.
The cost to retailers of forecourt thefts was £32.5 million in 2007, up 13% on 2006 figures.