Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board Reports on Temp Tag Fraud

The most recent issue of the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board’s “Dealer Talk” newsletter included important information for dealers in our region specifically.  The Dealer Board is reporting that Northern Virginia police are seeing an increase in fraudulent temporary license plates on cars around the D.C. region.  Many of the tags seen around Northern Virginia and Maryland are from Texas. In Maryland, Officer Sean McKinney with the Montgomery County Police Department said he first noticed temporary Texas tags five years ago.  By Law, a driver can only get Texas temporary tags from the licensed dealer they purchased the car from in Texas, yet police say most of the tags are being produced by questionable car dealers and other crooks and sold online.

Likewise, the Fairfax County Police Department have been focused on the issue since last year, trying to strike a balance between education and enforcement.

Why does somebody have these Texas tags? The answer can vary from convenience to criminal activity. Experts said some might turn to buying the tags, running $50 to $100, to avoid getting the vehicle inspected or insured.  Police body cam video obtained by a local news team showed some drivers stopped in recent months telling authorities the tags were already on the vehicle when they bought it. Others told police they didn’t realize they were breaking the law and still others thought it was a victimless crime. But multiple law enforcement agencies said some criminals are using them to drive without a license disguise stolen cars or even smuggle drugs making it almost impossible to track these vehicles because they can use any address they choose.

Law enforcement agencies and legislators across the U.S. have caught on and are now working together to stop the use of illegal fraudulent temp tags.  The local news team referenced in the MVDB article say they spotted tags in Virginia from at least five Texas dealers that were eventually shut down. These five Texas dealers were estimated to have sold over 755,000 temp tags around the country. When officers stop a vehicle with a suspicious tag and confirm it’s fraudulent, they normally seize it and cite the driver.

In 2020, Fairfax County did not charge a single person for fraudulent temp tags. But in 2021, officers issued 94 citations, including arresting one person accused of selling a Texas tag to an undercover detective. “That individual was charged with a forgery of these public documents”, said Lt. James Curry with the Fairfax County Police Department.  The person was found guilty. So far in 2022 there have been more than 40 citations.

Officer Sean McKinney with the Montgomery County Maryland Police Department said he’s seen the paper plates all over his area. “We’ve seen a rise recently in fraudulent tags from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.”

The rise in use and production of fraudulent temp tags has lawmakers across the country taking steps to crack down on those selling temp tags and the drivers who fake it to make it on the road.   Training of law enforcement agencies across the country aid in the spotting fraudulent temp tags that result in confiscating vehicles as evidence and prosecution of those involved.

Download Bulletin PDF