AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After years of widespread fraud and KXAN investigations, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles rolled out major design changes to its temporary paper tags on Friday to help prevent fraudulent paper licenses from circulating.
Agency leaders also testified before the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Friday, discussing details of the new tags as well as updated lawmakers about the work it has been doing to address this dangerous issue.
“The launch of the new design will make it more difficult to counterfeit a temporary tag. And in those cases where criminals attempt to do so, it will be easily identified by law enforcement who will be able to take immediate enforcement action,” said Roland Luna, deputy executive director of TxDMV.
As part of its ongoing crackdown on temporary tag abuse – which ballooned into a $200 million black market and allowed criminals to hide in untraceable “ghost cars” – the TxDMV said the new tag is “more complex and secure,” and included law enforcement input. The agency last redesigned temporary tags in 2018 but that proved ineffective.
Luna said this time, the new tags have a watermarked Texas flag to make it harder for bad actors to copy the temporary license. Other security features include enhanced dealer descriptions and font sizes along with “numerous pieces of embedded data and text” that will link to law enforcement databases.
The agency did not detail all of the new security features, many of which will only be detectable to law enforcement.
Luna detailed how a 2021 state law is being implemented. In part, the law gave the TxDMV authority to quickly shut down suspected fraudsters, but some advocates argue it doesn’t go far enough.
Still, TxDMV executive director Daniel Avitia said that the changes so far have already “significantly reduced the use of temporary tag fraud schemes.”
“We haven’t moved quickly enough to address this important issue. But that has changed,” Avitia said.
Lawmakers questioned whether fraudulent dealers are selling Texas paper tags in other states, to which the DMV said yes. Committee members agreed that likely will need to be addressed during the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.
Matt Grant contributed to this report.