A license plate number is a crucial component of the car that has had rampant cases of theft. This leaves many worried about what can someone do with your license plate number in case it’s lost or stolen?
License plates are metallic or plastic plates that are mounted at the front or the back for official identification. Different countries need registration plates mounted on vehicles including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. In some jurisdictions, it is also a requirement for bicycles, boats, or tractors, which may vary by jurisdiction.
License plate numbers comprise numeric or alphanumeric ID which uniquely identifies the vehicle or the owner of the vehicle within the jurisdiction under which the plate number is issued.
In the United States, license plate numbers are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The federal government of the U.S.A. only issues plate numbers for its group of vehicles and for those that belong to foreign diplomats.
Before the 1980s, the license plate numbers that were assigned to foreign diplomats were issued by the states where the embassies were located.
License plate numbers used in the U.S.A. must contain symbols, colors, or even slogans. They are easily identifiable with the issuing jurisdiction. It is stipulated by law that all vehicles that the federal government has assigned have to be registered for easy identification.
The license plate numbers issued by the US government were designed to help ease the identification of vehicles plying the roads.
Because of the ever-changing technological advancements and needs, the design, manufacture, management, registration, use, and issuance of license plates number have morphed over time to address issues on security, record keeping, asset management, and others that guarantee the safety of the drivers while driving on the roads.
Contents of this article entail;
History Of Car License Plate Number
License plate numbers vary from one state to another in terms of design and color. Different laws govern the issuance of plate numbers from state to state.
Nowadays it is a common thing to see vehicles moving on the roads having license plate numbers mounted on them. For ease of identification a thing that wasn’t so common before.
During the invention of the automobile, there were just a few isolated cars belonging to the royals that had plate numbers mounted on them. The idea of identifying all cars on the road using license plate numbers had not become a necessity.
This is because many people never owned cars. This made it very easy to identify the cars that could be seen moving on the road. They were few and belonged to certain individuals without having to go through the hassles of registration and identification.
The New Twist
But there was a new twist on matters when mass production of cars started. This was after the industrial revolution had taken shape in Europe and the American continents.
It had become very difficult to identify cars because many individuals could now afford to buy cars. This is because the price of vehicles had dropped significantly because of mass production.
Accidents and even crimes were on a rise. There was the need to identify cars that were involved in accidents or used to commit certain crimes.
The solution to this was to craft a working mechanism. This could register and identify both the vehicle and the car owner. It is this need that gave birth to the license plate numbers that we see on the roads today.
The Paris Ordinance issued the first license plate number in France in 1893. In Germany, the first license plate number was issued in 1896.
The Netherlands became the first country in the world to introduce national license plate numbers. They were then referred to as driving permits.
The early license plate numbers were unique. They all started with number 1. This system of ancient identification was kept until 1906. There was the need to develop a more improved system than the previous one.
How Much Information Can A license Plate Number Give You?
A license plate number is very useful if you are a driver with a car and continuously use public roads. Without it, you risk rubbing shoulders with the authorities. You also risk paying heavy fines, your driving license risks being canceled or your car getting impounded.
Eventually, you might have encountered a certain license plate number on the road and needed to have a lookup. The lookup may be based on the need to try to decipher certain information. That may interest you concerning the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle.
Before you can decide to take this type of measure, it would be prudent to know that there are laws that may limit the level of information that you are likely to find in any online license plate number lookup.
There are legal laws put in place to protect private information. This may not allow you to get all the information you need.
Why Would You Look Up A License Plate?
There are several reasons you may need to have a look up at a license plate number. This can be done to find the owner of the vehicle, their residential address, or if you may need to know more about the car’s history.
Here are some reasons that may instigate the sense to have a lookup on a license plate number:
1. Incidences Of Hit And Run Accidents Or Suspected Fraud
Hit-and-run accidents or suspected involvement in criminal activity can instigate the need to track the owner of the car involved in any of the two acts. A notable example is a case where you are the victim of any hit-and-run accident.
You may have taken note of the license plate number of the car that hit you. You may need such information with an aim to track the owner of the car that hit you and even help in taking legal action against them.
2. Used Car Research
If you are considering buying a used car, you may need to have more information about the car before you can splash some cash to purchase it.
To get this information, you may be interested to have an online lookup. It is crucial to know more about who owned the car before. How long did they use the car? And any other important information that can influence your decision if to buy the car.
3. Personal Motivations
Sometimes, you may need to carry out a lookup about a license plate number because of individually inspired reasons. These can be wanting to have direct contact with someone who may be of interest to you. But you don’t have any of their contact information.
You may need to use their license plate number to help you track them down. Or to satisfy your gains and interests. This may be someone who is a nuisance to you. Someone who keeps taking your parking lot or overtakes wrongly on the road hence jeopardizing your safety on the road.
Some of these interests may not be treated the same since they don’t have equal weight. Others will be treated with some sort of urgency while others will be ignored for the sake of upholding the laws governing personal privacy information.
Privacy Laws And Personal Lookups
It is against the law for an ordinary citizen to carry out a license plate lookup another individual. If you were to walk into the Department of Motor Vehicles offices and ask to be given confidential information about another person.
That type of information will not be available to you. The only people legally given the mandate to carry out license plate number checks are the law enforcement officers and other qualified persons.
Different states have got different laws that govern the disposal of confidential information such as those involving license plate numbers. Some of the states are not that strict with this information while others are very strict.
The non-strict states can allow private investigators to carry out a lookup in their information databases and extract some information about a vehicle and its driver. The strict states can only release the old records that are not currently of much importance for scrutiny.
Typical Online License Plate Lookups
Websites that purport to help provide license plate number information are a scam and cannot be relied upon to offer some helpful information.
This is because these sites base their information on old records that are put together to take advantage of the desperate public. In most cases, such old record information will not provide much-needed confidential records.
They can only give the description of the car in question and probably the information about the previous owner of the car.
Private Investigators And Special Teams
To be able to get complete and more accurate information from the most reliable records, you will have to work with private investigators and other specialized teams.
The private investigators and specialized teams are allowed to use a combination of resources and information from the databases to help come up with a complete report on a given plate number of interest.
This, therefore, makes then the only avenue to help get the most reliable information on a license number lookup. but this will not come for free like the online lookup.
To involve this group of specialized individuals, you will have to part ways with some dollars but the services offered will be done with uttermost professionalism and accuracy.
What Information Can You Find?
So by having decided to involve private investigators, the big question is what kind of information will they be able to avail to you concerning a license plate number?
- Vehicle description. Many a time the private investigators will give you the description of the car. They will also avail the license plate number of the vehicle. This can help you check if it matches the one you have.
- Current owner name. This will greatly depend on the state where you are in. The laws governing the disposal of private information to a third party. And the source of this kind of information. In most cases, you will be given the name of the current owner of the vehicle.
- Current owner address. Once the name of the current owner of the car has been availed to you. It will not be very difficult to get the residential address of the current owner of the car.
- Other information. When you involve the law enforcement officers in your lookup, they may also help extract other information. Information about the car’s insurance records or if the car has been stolen.
Before you can embark on a license plate number lookup, there are certain factors to consider. These factors include the accuracy of the information of the state you are in, whether the information in their databases is updated to current information, and the type of company you will be dealing with.
You should always ensure that when you are going to request a license plate number lookup, then it should be for better reasons. Any lookup for a vehicle owner for individually inspired reasons is illegal, and will not be accepted by any private investigator.
What Is License Plate Number Theft?
Theft of license plate numbers is not uncommon. Thieves are known to steal car license plate numbers to help them hide their identities.
They commit crimes using stolen license plate numbers so that they cannot be easily identified. In most cases, they target the license plate numbers of vehicles with the same model and make to conceal their identity.
It can be so annoying relaxing innocently at home then all of a sudden cops come knocking at your door with an arrest warrant for a crime you know nothing about.
How To Prevent License Plate Number Theft
There are different steps that you can take to protect your license plate number from theft. Some of our recommended steps include;
1. Secure Those Plates
Anti-theft one-way screws are the best to help firmly mount your license plate number on your car. The regular screw that usually accompanies your license is not safe enough to secure your plate number against theft.
They can easily be removed by any aggressive person. Anti-theft screws are the only way to secure your plate number since they are tamper-proof. This means that once they have been mounted they can never be removed.
The anti-theft screws can easily be found at any local hardware store. You will only have to spend a few dollars on buying the screws and a standard flat-bladed screwdriver to help fix the screws easily.
2. Blur Your License Plate Number Online
If you are going to use your license plate number anywhere online, make sure to always blur the license plate number. You can be tempted to post pictures of your car online. Always make sure the plate number isn’t exposed.
Theft of license plate numbers can take place in cyberspace too. Criminals are always browsing through websites where vehicles are sold to get cars of a similar model as theirs. They then clone these license plate numbers and use them to commit crimes.
3. Start A Neighbourhood Watch
Staying safe is a community effort. To start a campaign and recruit your neighbors. Having more than one pair of eyes goes a long way in protecting your local area. Remember, vigilance can prevent more than just stolen number plates.
4. Park In Safe Areas
For security reasons, always ensure that you park your car in a locked garage rather than an open place along the street. Thieves always look for opportunities to satisfy their interests and any careless parking can provide an excellent opportunity for them to pluck off your license place number.
They will hardly walk and break into a closed garage just for a plate number. Using public parking lots is also a hotspot for plate number theft. Always try to avoid using public parking lots at any cost. These little steps can go a long way to help minimize license plate theft.
My License Plate Was Lost Or Stolen. How Do I Obtain A New One?
Stolen license plate numbers can always be acquired from the Secretary of State’s office. You will only need to visit the office with your vehicle’s registration or the license plate number and your identification.
You will have to spend $5 to have a replacement plate and a tab. If you decide to make a personalized license number or if you decide to buy a different type of plate number, then you will have to spend more to have this done.
If your plate is stolen, you have to contact your local police office to report the matter. The agency will then enter a message into the Law Enforcement Information Network alerting other officers that the plate number has been reported as stolen.
Replacement of license plate numbers can only be done upon request by the car owner, a member of the car owner’s family living at the same address, or by any person representing the car owner but with an Appointment of Agent form from the car owner filled.
What To Do When License Plate Number Is Stolen
- Immediately report the license plate theft to the local police department. Call 911 and they put you in touch with the right department.
- Obtain a police report from the visiting officer.
- Report the stolen plate to your Department of Motor Vehicles office.
- Obtain a temporary tag or a new plate from the state as soon as possible.
- If this happens at a hotel or resort, negotiate a price reduction for the inconvenience you have experienced while at their establishment.
- Secure your new plate.
CAUTION: Never drive your car until you report the theft and an officer arrives to write the official report. Remember, it is illegal to drive a car without a license plate number mounted on your car.
What Can Someone Do with Your License Plate Number?
This is the question that most of the time boggles your mind when your license plate number is stolen.
You will be worried especially in this current age and time when extracting some confidential information isn’t a big deal to any aggressive individual.
All the information is in the palm of everyone’s hand on smartphones, tablets, or even laptops.
Carrying out license plate number lookups is a common practice. It is often done for vehicle identification or information verification.
This will greatly depend on the reason why the lookup needs to be carried out. Such reasons must be solid enough to warrant a lookup to be done by the investigating officers.
There are so many scams practices and fraud attempts that are taking place daily. Having your license plate number displayed in public may raise a lot of questions.
It is not that easy just stepping into the Department of Motor Vehicles offices and request for the license plate number report for another person and thinking it will be availed to you.
Should You Hide Your License Plate Number?
You may have the urge to make your license plate number invisible for security reasons and to preserve your privacy.
But if the law enforcement agencies find you with an obstructed plate number it may not go down well since it is against the law to obstruct the license plate number.
The laws of the state demand that every driver should have their license plate numbers open and free from any object that may compromise the license plate number’s visibility.
Sometimes, vehicles have been spotted on the road bearing coated or wrapped license plate numbers which help to hide them from clear view.
Doing this may have less effect but never try to do so if you are a law-abiding citizen and would not wish to rub shoulders with law enforcement agencies.
Remember, any kind of modification done to the license plate number contravenes the law. Any violation of the law can attract hefty fines or risk your car getting pounded.
And that is not all. In worst cases, you may get reprimanded and sanctioned by law enforcement agencies if you are caught driving on an obscured license plate number.
We would advise never to make any modification to the license plate number that may try to obscure it however small it may seem. You just need to leave the license plate number to display appropriately.
What Information Can You Get From A License Plate Number Lookup?
All information regarding vehicles’ license plate numbers is available with the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, this information may not be availed to you anytime you request someone else’s information with no strong reason. Getting this record will depend on the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) regulations.
The privacy of anyone is protected by law. Therefore, having access to another person’s sensitive information through a license plate number lookup can be a daunting task.
You don’t need to be worried about the privacy of your information. It will remain protected from third-party access. Even if your license plate number is mounted on your vehicle and is read by anyone.
However, the safety of your information should still worry you. In case a stranger can try to access it through license plate number lookup.
This attempt may not produce all the vital information that the unauthorized person may want. He can only find details such as your vehicle’s year, make, and model, information that may not be of much help in tracking you down.
Other possible information that they can extract through such lookup includes the Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) in case they try to enquire about your vehicle’s safety notice or recall.
You just need to be confident enough that your data is in safe custody. And can never spill out to a third party. Unless there is a very serious reason that triggers the reason to warrant a lookup upon request.
Can Someone Find Your Address From A License Plate?
If a third party tries a license plate number lookup to extract your crucial information without your authority then it can be really difficult to get the vital information needed.
The Department of Motor Vehicles has put in place very strict regulations on unauthorized license plate number lookups.
Before any lookup can be accepted by a third party, you must have authority from the car owner or have sound reasons for the lookup to be done.
In case you have sound reasons and your lookup request is accepted, then you will have certain limitations of the extent of data that will be availed to you.
This will greatly depend on the reason why you need a lookup on someone else’s confidential information. You will only have access to the following information:
- Fuel-economy or engine capacity
- Natural damage
- History of maintenance
- Driver criminal history
- Accident history
- Repossession history
As mentioned earlier, this type of information will not be availed to you for just personal reasons.
However, this complex process will only be accepted upon request by a third party for some isolated reasons such as the need to enquire about a crime, hit-and-run incidents and accidents on the road, robbery, and any other criminal offenses of such magnitude.
Police officers are authorized to carry out license plate number lookups when needed.
This may include situations such as when the information is needed to help solve certain cases. Such cases include civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceedings and insurance claim investigations.
They may not give away or share any data extracted from such lookups with any third party. It’s only the professional authorities who are mandated to handle information extracted from license plate number lookups.
What Can You Do With A License Plate Number?
As mentioned earlier license plate numbers are vital in instances where you would wish to get the information on a car you currently possess or that you recently purchased.
License plate number information can also be useful especially if you own a used car and would wish to get information regarding the maintenance of the car and general ownership.
If the car belongs to you, then a lookup on your vehicle will give you your vehicle’s information, history, status, VIN, etc. Additionally, you can also get limited vehicle registration data through this process, but this will require some extra documentation and verification.
License plate numbers are also very important in case of a road accident. This is because some drivers may commit unlawful offenses. It is the license plate numbers that can help track the owner of the car especially if it was a hit-and-run offense.
A driver or a pedestrian may have noted a vehicle’s license plate number so that they can report any unlawful incidences to the authorities with ease.
Submitting a road crime report accompanied with a license plate number can go a long way in aiding law enforcers to easily identify the offender.
What To Know
As a driver, knowing the concept behind license plate numbers is very vital because this can help you out in case you find yourself in a situation that requires vehicle identification.
Even if you don’t need to report a vehicular incident soon, you need to be aware of how the process works and the restriction involved.
You also don’t have to worry about getting your privacy compromised by unknown individuals who may want your license plate number looked up without your authorization.
You need to have confidence that your vital license plate number data is well protected by the law and you don’t need to partake in certain illegal steps to protect your private information at the expense of breaking the law.
Digital Car License Plates
The digital era is causing massive disruptions in all sectors all over the world. The automobile industry especially the issuance of license plate numbers is not left behind.
There have been piloting programs that are taking place in the U.S.A. regarding the management and issuance of digital license numbers.
Currently, digital plate numbers are only allowed for use only in isolated states such as California and Arizona. These digital license numbers are designed by the Reviver Company.
The digital plate numbers convert letters and numbers into pixels on a digital screen. This system is much similar to that used in electronic books.
The digital license plates numbers are integrated into the car and can also display several messages. These messages have to be approved and can communicate if the vehicle is stolen or exhibits some unusual alerts.
But other digital systems, besides giving information about the vehicle and its owner, can also facilitate automatic payments, telemetry, and information about the vehicle’s condition. The disadvantage of this digitization is the high cost that accompanies it.
The manufacture, installation, and maintenance of the digital license plates. This cost can be somewhere between $500 to $1,000. Although it is presumed that these prices are likely to fall significantly when the mass issuance of digital plate numbers is rolled out.
What Can Someone Do with Your License Plate Number: Conclusion
The license plate numbers are vital car identification gadgets that you can’t just omit from your car. Without them, you are likely to fall on the wrong side with law enforcement agencies. You should always ensure that you have put enough mechanisms to protect your license plate number from theft.
The main reason leading to rampant license plate number theft is that criminals use the stolen plate numbers to conceal the identity of the cars used to commit crimes.
Otherwise, someone using your license plate number to get your confidential information should not be anything to worry about since it is not a simple task.
There exist laws that govern the level of exposure of confidential information to the public. Your license plate number details are one of this confidential information that cannot be exposed to a third party unless otherwise.
Advancements in digital technology have led to the introduction of digital license plate numbers that are likely to help curb license plate number theft.