FOX 29 Investigates: Scamsters Copying Vehicle Tags

FOX 29 Investigates: Scamsters Copying Vehicle Tags

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. -

FOX 29 Investigates has found New Jersey's new e-temporary tag program for newly purchased vehicles is being undercut by scamsters able to copy the tags.

69-year-old Raymond Hirn has a couple of big passions in life. The U.S. Marine Corps., in which he served, and Ford Trucks like his shinny F-150.

He buys a new Ford every year, but it's the truck he purchased in October of last year he'll never forget.

"In February of 2013 I started receiving E-Z pass violations, New Jersey Turnpike violations, Philadelphia Parking Authority violations, City of Camden violations," Hirn said.

Hundreds of dollars in violations for blowing through E-Z Pass on the Ben Franklin, or failing to feed meters in Camden and Philly. Those were infractions he never committed in places he hadn't been.

Not just his identity, but more accurately, the temporary tag which sat on the back of his new Ford for just a week in the fall of 2012. Hirn says police have told him he's the victim of a Temp Tag Rip-Off.

"Somebody is stealing these numbers and re-producing them on a computer. This is the information I have received from the Cherry Hill Police," Hirn said.

Not only was the tag re-produced, according to this police department incident report, 10 traffic violation summonses were racked-up on the plates on 3 different cars; a Kia, a Honda and a Jeep.

"When these violations come in my name comes up in the system as the registered person for this particular temp," Hirn said. "It's a nightmare knowing I have to go out there and defend myself. "

FOX 29 Investigates has learned it's an issue that's impacting car buyers and auto dealer alike across New Jersey. And it has in-part undercut the roll-out in 2012 of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission's new temporary tag system. A system billed as able to boost safety and reduce fraud in the Garden State.

Here's how it's supposed to work:

A white and black Temporary Tag is printed by auto dealers and mounted in the rear license plate holder when a car is purchased.

The Motor Vehicle Commission claimed it would make it easier for police to spot the tags and run them from the safety of their patrol cars.

But the Motor Vehicle Commission appears to have failed to fully realize how easily a black and white temp tag could be copied and there's another big problem which Ray Hirn found out first hand:

When he received the permanent license plates for his new truck, he took the temporary tag back to his dealer, Winner Ford, which stated in this notarized letter they destroyed it back on November 6, 2012.

But according to this Enforcement Action from the Delaware River Port Authority, a jeep with one of the fake temp tags blew through the toll on the Walt Whitman Bridge over 3 months later.

And guess who got the $30 fine? Raymond Hirn.

It happened over and over again, piling up about $230 bucks in violations in his name.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission does not have a system in place for Auto Dealers to notify the agency when they destroy a temporary tag leaving people like Ray Hirn on the hook.

The head of NJ Car, a trade association representing new car dealers across New Jersey, says his group has logged at least 200 complaints from dealers since the new Temp Tags were rolled out last year telling Fox 29 Investigates:

"...MVC has a temporary tag out there that's just too easy to duplicate..."

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission refused our repeated requests for an on-camera interview.

In a statement to Fox 29 Investigates, it wrote:

"The counterfeiting of temporary license plates has been going on long before the advent of the e-temp tags…fraud is one of the reasons that New Jersey moved to an electronic temporary tag system."

But FOX 29 Investigates specifically asked the Commission why it was not clearing the names of residents like Raymond Hirn from its system when their temp tags are destroyed? The agency did not directly answer writing it.

Ray Hirn went to the Port Authority and appeared in court to wipe away the bogus violations. A managing partner of a South Jersey Auto Dealership tells FOX 29, he had a customer with $3000 in bad violations.

Meanwhile, police departments in Camden and Cherry Hill say at this point they're unable to run the temp tags though the computers in police cars to get information.

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