A recent Global News article is warning Calgarians that license plate theft is on the rise, usually in locations with large parking lots. The article tells of a victim who went in to their local grocery store, heard of a license plate theft, and checked their plate upon returning to their vehicle. Sure enough, it was not theirs.
Why do thieves steal license plates?
License plates serve as tools for criminals to engage in unlawful activities while pretending to be someone else. A stolen license plate can be put onto a stolen vehicle to make it seem legitimate, and allows the thieves to drive around freely … at least until the plate’s rightful owner notices the swap.
License plate theft poses problems for the legitimate plate owner and exposes innocent citizens to a range of dangers. Thieves exploit license plates for activities ranging from hazardous driving and fraud to identity theft and break-ins, amplifying the risks faced by unsuspecting individuals.
What to do if your license plate has been stolen
In January 2022, the Government of Alberta made it mandatory for residents to report lost or stolen license plates to the police before taking any other action. You will not be able to obtain a replacement license plate at a registry until you have done so. A police file number is required to replace the licence plate.
To obtain a replacement license plate, you can visit a registry agent office and follow these steps:
- Present your Alberta driver’s license or another valid form of identification that includes your name, date of birth, and photograph.
- Provide the police file number associated with the lost or stolen license plate.
- Complete a Licence Plate/Parking Placard Cancellation Declaration form.
- Pay the applicable fee for the replacement.
How to not be a victim
Experts recommend purchasing security bolts for your license plate to make it harder for thieves to take. These are available at most vehicle parts stores. Make sure to purchase the same size bolts as the originals.
Police also urge vehicle owners to reduce their risk by following these guidelines:
- Always walk around your vehicle to check everything, such as your license plate and your tires, before driving away.
- Park in well-lit areas with a relatively high volume of vehicular and/or pedestrian traffic.
- Avoid backing into spaces in parking lots, as this can make it easier for thieves to go unseen when taking your plate.
Police can scan your license plate anywhere
Being a victim of a license plate swap can place you at risk of being pulled over by the police. Police officers are able to easily scan the license plates of other vehicles on the road to check their registration, which means that they can quickly identify a stolen plate. It is so simple to do that in 2022 the Government of Alberta stopped the use of registration expiry stickers as improvements in scanning technology made them unnecessary.
If you are being pulled over, follow these steps for your safety and the safety of the officers:
- Turn on your turn signal or hazard lights to let the police officers know you are going to comply with the stop.
- Find a safe place to pull over (often a parking lot or a side street).
- Turn off the vehicle when stopped. Keep your seatbelt on.
- Don’t make any unnecessary movements.
- Wait for the officers to approach before hunting around for your license, insurance, and registration. This helps keep them at ease that you do not have any weapons on hand.
- Roll down your window and place your hands on the top of your steering wheel.
- Follow the instructions of the officer. Be polite and calm.
The officers have the responsibility to properly identify themselves and tell you why you have been stopped or why they want to talk to you.
Lower rates for vehicle insurance from Lane’s
When it’s time to renew your vehicle insurance, be sure to check in with us at Lane’s for savings. The right coverage provides peace of mind, especially when you know you are also getting lower rates. As insurance brokers, we are able to effectively cross reference the policies from Canada’s top insurance providers to find the most effective coverage at the best price, sure to check all of the boxes on your insurance to-do list. We have access to a number of discounts, as well, to further ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
Experienced brokers such as us excel at educating customers, answering questions and explaining coverage so you will never feel like you aren’t sure of your purchase. You can find us working out of our Calgary, Banff, Edmonton, and greater Alberta offices.