Scammers game ‘last-digit’ system to get fuel

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Ceypetco filling stations started dispensing fuel according to the last digit of the vehicle’s licence plate number began on 21 July, under the guidance of the Ministry of Power and Energy.

Accordingly, fuel dispensing commenced according to the following system; for number plates ending with 0, 1, 2 – Tuesday and Saturday, number plates ending with 3, 4, 5 – Thursday and Sunday, number plates ending with 6, 7, 8, 9 – Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But, major issues cropped up with this system with many scams and scammers quickly taking advantage of loopholes.

A remarkable number of number plate scams were reported on social media. Many scammers fraudulently changed their number plates to get fuel. In certain cases some have desperately taken the number plates off their motorcycles and fixed in on their cars to get fuel.

“It is against the law”

Speaking with Ceylon Today, Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) Commissioner General Sumith Alahakoon said, actions against those using fake number plates are taken in accordance with the Motor Traffic Act and that the Police are tasked with it.

He emphasised that according to the Act, a vehicle cannot be driven without a number plate, or the number plate issued for a particular vehicle and that using a number plate other than the one that was issued during the registration of that vehicle is an offence.

 “Under the Act, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has the powers to take action, and accordingly, the Police can take legal action against offenders for violating the provisions of the Act,” he added.

In response to the question as to whether any preventive measures are being taken to discourage people from committing such offences, he noted that people are committing this offence intentionally and that enforcing the law is vital.

 “Vehicle owners are aware about the fact that they should display their own number plate. Those using fake number plates do so, knowing full well that it is an offence. The Police are tasked with identifying fake number plates and taking action. When it comes to identifying fake number plates as has been seen on social media platforms, it can be done by comparing the number printed on the number plate with the number mentioned on the sticker on the windscreen. It can also be done through inspecting the vehicle revenue licence, which is pasted on windscreen. In addition, it is mandatory to keep the vehicle emission certificate (with the vehicle operator), so that the Police can identify the vehicle easily,” he explained.

With regard to vehicle number plates, he added: “If the number plates have English letters, which, if I am not mistaken, issued after 2000, they have been issued by the DMT. For number plates issued before that, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued vehicle specifications, and those number plates can only be used vehicles with those specifications.”

According to, Vehicles Ordinance, Chapter II, Article 8, it is an offence to get rid of the number plate that was fixed unless for purposes of renovation.

“The plate shall be kept and continued so fixed so long as the licence shall remain in force: Provided that when any plate has during the period of the licence become indistinct or defaced by use or otherwise, the owner shall return the same to the proper authority, and shall be entitled, on making a payment of twenty-five cents, to receive a fresh plate, and the above provisions shall apply to such fresh plate. The proper authority may, on his being satisfied by affidavit that any plate has been lost or stolen, issue a fresh plate on the application of the owner of the vehicle and on payment by him of twenty-five cents, and the provisions of this section shall apply to such fresh plate.

Any owner who fails to return as aforesaid any plate which has become indistinct or defaced shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable to the punishment prescribed by section of this Ordinance.”

More crimes in fuel queues…

Though the public have been pushed to the extent of changing their vehicles identity to get fuel that they need because of the prevailing economic crisis, deceit is an offence, and no offence can be considered an effective solution under any given situation.

It’s ironic to hear a lot of people in fuel queues complain that the whole country is paying the price of the deceits of previous political leaders and their economic decisions and demand a system change to get rid of such leaders, while engaged in this scam.

Licence plate fraud is just one issue, the major crimes in fuel queues are spare part and fuel theft. Thieves syphon reserve fuel from vehicles in queues left overnight and are removing spare parts from unattended vehicles.

Society should understand that the system change they expect from each and every politician they vote into office doesn’t only require a new constitutional act or a comprehensive leader it also requires basic decency; a set of manners followed by each individual while being considerate about the country and the society that they live. Changing numbers to get fuel earlier before their turn, is denying another person’s right for a fair play in the fuel queues. If we the public, do not think about others who are facing the same economic pressure and are not compassionate about each other’s situations, how can we expect such compassion, social justice from an individual who is given the highest authority of the country with the vote of the majority?

By Nabiya Vaffoor