License plate thefts happen. In the Dallas area, police report the crime occurs often, and sometimes, the vehicle owner doesn't even realize it. Criminals can switch your plate with another stolen plate, and just glancing, you might not realize your plate has been stolen.

Criminals often bank on people being unaware of their license plate numbers.

You should regularly monitor your plates and make sure they are adequately secured. If you notice a problem, report it immediately. Numerous local Texas police department press releases found online warn drivers never to assume their license plate "fell off" if they notice it missing.

Additionally, you can buy specialized license plate screws that use proprietary heads, making them much more difficult to remove.

Criminals use stolen plates on stolen cars because they know license plates rarely get reported stolen. This gives them more time to use the stolen vehicle without being detected.

Here's the million dollar question, if your stolen license plate is used in a crime, could you be legally responsible? You won't like the answer

Yes, you may be responsible for toll fines and other expenses if your stolen license plate is used in a crime. If you did not report the license plate stolen before the crime occurred, it might be challenging to prove that you were not legally responsible for the toll or other liabilities that may have happened.

In addition, experts say when you sell or trade your car, make sure your plates are removed and destroyed if you don't plan on transferring them to another vehicle. Notify TxDMV and TxTag about the sale.

If you are trading a vehicle, demand proof that your former vehicle is no longer in your name from a DMV standpoint. Any dealer should easily be able to provide you with a "submission confirmation" to verify the Vehicle Transfer Notification has been completed.

If your plate is stolen or lost, immediately take the following steps.

1) Report the theft immediately to local law enforcement. You can call the non-emergency police department number or go to the nearest police station and file a report.

2) Get a copy of the police report. This will serve as evidence that your plate was stolen. It will be helpful if you need to dispute any traffic fines or other theft-related issues.

3) Contact the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to report the theft and request a replacement license plate. You must provide your vehicle registration and a copy of the license plate theft police report. Plates and stickers can be replaced on a registered vehicle for the registered owner with an application (VTR-60) and a fee of $6.50.

4) Monitor your credit and financial accounts. Although rare, your stolen plate information may be used for fraud, including opening bank accounts or obtaining credit cards.

Texas's crackdown on its paper tag problem last year has caused a spike in license plate thefts in Texas, according to press releases from several local law enforcement agencies in Texas. TXDMV says they don't know often license plates are stolen. It doesn't track that information.

TXDMV does track how often license plates are replaced, and the numbers are jumping.

The hassle of having your license plates stolen is considerable.  The hassle of not reporting it immediately can be catastrophic. It is not an issue Texas drivers can afford to take lightly.

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