Last week, on two occasions, Anthony Macharia Waweru noticed that some people who looked like police officers had been following him as he drove around Nakuru town, going about his business.
He felt insecure but says he did not know what to do.
It was not until he received a phone call from an officer, asking him to present himself at the Flying Squad offices in Nairobi that he got to know that the car he bought in 2016 had a duplicate number plate.
“I got more scared when I received the call. I was told they needed to verify which of the number plates was genuine. I was too frightened to even drive my car after that because I did not know what to expect,” Mr Waweru said.
At the Flying Squad offices yard, he was shown a Toyota Harrier with the same number plate as his Nissan Dualis.
Investigations would later reveal that the Toyota Harrier — which was imported from Japan in 2016 — was destined for South Sudan.
Mr Waweru bought his car in November 2016.
“The Toyota Harrier is not registered in Kenya. It would not have been because by the time it was being brought into the country, it was older than recommended age. It has a fake number plate and we suspect that the owner, who has been using it for car hire business, made the number plate immediately it landed here,” head of flying squad Musa Yego said.
He warned Kenyans against buying vehicles whose details they have not verified with registered dealers, saying con men have even infiltrated the NTSA portal.
“Since anyone can access car details, it is easy for the con men to extract the same and make fake logbooks. The danger in this is that in case the other vehicle is involved in a crime, chances of the genuine owner being mistaken or sought by law enforcers are very high.
“These cases are increasing. Cars are being stolen and sold to unsuspecting Kenyans. Yards are full of brokers and they keep driving stolen cars to these yards and selling them without detection,” he said.
On average, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations handles 10 cases of fake and duplicated number plates in a month, mostly mounted on illegally smuggled vehicles, stolen vehicles and those used by criminals.
“Several cars are stolen day in day out and we urge the public to be on the lookout for fake number plates and report them. If you come across a number plate that resembles yours, please report,” Mr Yego said.
Kenya has been vulnerable because most neighbouring countries rely on the Mombasa Port for their imports.
Flying Squad detectives have applications installed in their phones that generate details of the car including colour, year of manufacture, chassis number, car make and other crucial information, when a number plate is keyed in.