What Should You Do if Your License Plate Is Stolen?

When you head out to your car in the morning, notice something isn’t quite right with your car, your license plate has been stolen. What should you do? This type of theft is much more common than most of us would like to realize, and there are some specific steps you must take to receive a replacement plate and report yours stolen.

Why would someone steal a license plate?

Car Theft in Progress thief with a tool attempting to steal a car
Car Theft in Progress | Shutterstock

Typically, a person steals a license plate to be used on a stolen vehicle to cover up a third crime they intend to commit. If you’re keeping up, that’s a trifecta in one planned event. We have:

  • Your stolen license plate
  • A stolen car
  • A third crime not yet committed

The fact that license plate theft leads to additional crimes is one of the biggest reasons law enforcement cracks down on stolen plates.

How do I report a lost tag?

If you’ve been the victim of license plate theft, stolenplates.com tells us the first thing to do is report it stolen. You can do this by calling 911; typically, they will transfer you to the right department. Do not drive your car without the plate on it. Once you report your stolen tag, an officer should arrive at your location and file a report for you.

The officer can perform a license plate lookup and verify your information. It would be best if you had your registration handy to make their license plate search easier. Once the officer has written the report of a stolen plate, ask for a copy or at least the report number. You will need this when driving around without a license plate.

When should a stolen license plate be reported to the DMV?

Sample License Plates from Several States
Sample License Plates from Several States | Shutterstock

You should do this as soon as possible. Some locations will issue a temporary plate while creating a new one for you. Others will hand you a new license plate right away. If you have personalized plates on your vehicle, you’ll have to wait a few days for yours to be created and mailed to your home address.

Can someone find your address from your license plate?

No, the personal address isn’t searchable by the general public with a license plate number. However, many plates do have the county or region where a car is registered.

Can you use the front plate as a replacement in states that require front and back plates?

Rear of a Car Without a License Plate
The Rear of a Car Without a License Plate | Shutterstock

No, once one of your license plates is reported stolen, they are both considered stolen. These plates have the same number on them. The only exception is for Canadians in America. They will have to drive home with one plate. Canadians will likely be stopped at the border, which is why you need the police report.

How do you prevent plate theft?

Many of us don’t think to do this, but a set of security screws can stop crooks from taking your plates off of your vehicle. Most cars only come with a pair of screws with either a slotted or Philips’s head. If you install security screws that require a special tool to remove them, you’ll stop most thieves that might be interested in stealing the places off of your car.

Next, learn more about why you shouldn’t buy a Nissan Titan, or watch this video below about stolen license plates:


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