SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Law enforcement agencies in the Mid-South are finding more cars with fake temporary tags.
They’re calling it a serious problem that’s only getting worse since WREG Investigators told you about it last summer.
It allows drivers to skirt taxes and registration fees, and for some, it allows them to go undetected. Criminals are using them while committing crimes since they’re harder to trace.
“It slows down the process of the investigation. It doesn’t make it impossible,” Shelby County Property Crimes Detective Anthony Brown said. “They’re easy to get a hold of. Now, they’re selling them in so many different markets.”
He said he’s seen a large amount of them compared to 10 years ago.
“We are currently having our patrol units to make more traffic stops,” Brown said.
He said they’re also working operations to nab those making and selling them.
Memphis Police is trying to crack down on the problem too. In fact, the number of arrests has rapidly risen.
In 2019, 39 people were arrested for having fraudulent paper tags, which is a felony charge. That number grew to 89 last year. So far this year, there have been 74 arrests.
We pressed the Tennessee Department of Revenue about the problem. No one agreed to an interview, only telling us the tags are on weather-resistant paper. They have identifying barcodes, the dealership’s information and a unique plate number allowing law enforcement to see if it’s valid.
However, those measures aren’t new, and law enforcement says it’s hard to tell if the tag is fake unless the car is pulled over.
We asked if Brown if they are hard to spot.
“They are. Going down a highway, just looking at a tag, it’s hard to say whether it’s real or not,” he said.
The state said it’s worked with law enforcement in West Tennessee to “help them recognize fake temporary tags” and believes the increased number of arrests we’re seeing reflects “the ability of law enforcement to more easily recognize fake tags.”