Ticketbuster: Counterfeit temporary tags a common crime

COLUMBIA, Md. — When you purchase a new car and get temporary tags, you don’t think twice after you’ve returned them. But criminals may be lurking in the background, a type of identity theft that is quite common.

Charles McDonald is a real-life example of how much these crooks can affect people. He purchased a Hyundai Genesis from a dealer, then returned his temporary plates when he received his permanent tags in December 2014. Within weeks, he started getting tickets in the mail. Speed and red light camera tickets in Washington D.C., Takoma Park and Columbia.

Five tickets arrived in one month. Each of the tickets carried the same temporary tags that he had turned into the dealer, but the car was very different.

“The car in the photos is gray. My car is white. The car was a Sonata because you can see it on the back of the car. These are very different types of four door cars,” says McDonald.

“It was very frustrating because I wasn’t going to pay for something I didn’t do. I wanted to pull my hair out. This criminal could’ve done something even more serious and the police could have been banging on my door,” he adds.

Sources tell WTOP that this crime is common. Criminals make or purchase counterfeit temporary tags, then drive with reckless abandon because any tickets or unpaid toll road trips would go to their victim.

McDonald attempted to file a police report, but the Howard County Police told him to contact the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). After contacting them, the MVA launched an official investigation into the case and provided a letter for McDonald to get his tickets voided. MVA also delinked his name from the temporary tags, eliminating the chance he’d get future tickets. However, it also means that nobody will get the tickets.

“These criminals cause people so much anguish. This is like an identity theft. The license plate is tied to a person. These crooks steal your identity and get all these fines and get away scott free,” says McDonald.

“What is going to stop this guy from getting another counterfeit tag and turning someone else’s life upside down?” he adds.

Takoma Park Police and the Maryland State Highway Administration voided three of the five tickets. The D.C. DMV agreed to dismiss the final two.

“What a relief. Now I can finally relax,” McDonald says.

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