HOUSTON – Channel 2 Investigates has discovered the Texas DMV’s online Temporary Tag system does not verify the personal information of the those who register vehicles, allowing anyone to get a temporary license plate.
“Auto theft investigators and police officers throughout the state have said to Austin and said, ‘Hey, look, you got to help us,'” Sgt. Tracy Hicks, a veteran Houston Police Department auto theft investigator, said.
The Department of Motor Vehicles takes steps to ensure VIN information does correspond to actual vehicles, but the same stringency is not used to verify who registers those vehicles. By the same token, users could input a valid VIN that does not correspond to the car it is on.
Users are able to print the temporary license plates immediately.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our process," Texas DMV Director of Vehicle Titles and Registration Jeremiah Kuntz said. "We’re adding some security features to the tag itself. We are adding validations into our systems constantly, trying to make them more secure.”
Channel 2 Investigates also found temporary tags for sale on Facebook. We were able to secure a “Dealer” tag, good for 60 days, for $100 cash. The tag does not contain any personal identifying information.
“We did find this (tag) was issued through our system. Since it was not for legitimate purpose, that would be a violation,” Kuntz said, adding that DMV investigators would further examine the situation. “We’re going to open a case on this dealer to seek some sanctions against them."
The tag was issued from a Houston used car dealership that is out of business and not geographically near the West Houston home where we picked up the tag.
In December, the DMV will release new temporary tags that include new security features.
The DMV would not disclose each and every difference, but the new paper plate will be engineered to allow law enforcement to more quickly identify the registration information tied to the plate.
The new plates will also be harder to print copies that appear original.
Some of the changes include a barcode reader and larger type for the plate number and expiration date. When asked, the DMV would not reveal the changes being made to the online registration portion of the system.
“So there are steps the DMV has taken to make people more accountable?” Channel 2 Investigative reporter Joel Eisenbaum asked.
“Absolutely,” Kuntz said.