Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Ghost Tags

New Jersey Rolls Out New Temporary License Plates to Fight Black Market Exposed by Streetsblog

The state released few details about the new temporary tags, but noted they'll be reformatted and printed on different paper to "prevent and reduce fraud."

Collage: Angel Mendoza

New Jersey is rolling out new temporary license plates with "enhanced security features" to fight the black market that has inundated New York City and other parts of the country with sham paper tags, the state Motor Vehicle Commission announced on Monday.

The agency released few details about the new plates, but noted they'll be reformatted and printed on different paper to "prevent and reduce fraud."

The redesign was one of many reforms mandated by a New Jersey state law passed in the wake of a Streetsblog investigation last year that revealed used car dealers in New Jersey and Georgia were illegally selling vast numbers of so-called "temp tags" to drivers using them to avoid accountability on the road.

New York City was a major market for the tags, Streetsblog found, and some of the dealers issuing unusually large numbers of tags were themselves New Yorkers.

The law in New Jersey also increased criminal penalties for those who illegally sell or drive with fraudulent temporary tags, a change that took effect when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill in January. Another major provision of the bill — the creation of a "vehicle registry" to make it easier for authorities to identify fraudulent tags — will launch next year, the Motor Vehicle Commission announced.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, who introduced the legislation, said Tuesday she was eager for the reforms to take effect.

"The state has put forth a positive step in making sure that we're protecting our families on the road," she said. "It's a much better system, it's going to be one that's monitored, one that will be protected, one that will be more difficult to replicate."

Car dealers can only legally issue temporary tags for cars that they've just sold or leased. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, dealers in New Jersey and Georgia began printing and illegally selling large numbers of tags to motorists who used them to drive on suspended licenses, to avoid tolls and traffic tickets or to commit more serious crimes on the road with their identities concealed, Streetsblog found.

This black market flourished in part because of weak laws and regulations that made it relatively easy in New Jersey and Georgia to obtain used car dealership credentials and print temp tags using fake information.

When authorities caught a tag peddler, they typically imposed only minor fines. In New Jersey, for example, Streetsblog found one dealership that issued 36,000 temporary tags in one year before being shut down for temporary tag fraud. If the dealership sold all 36,000 tags, it could have made millions of dollars. When the state stepped in, it sent the dealership a letter saying its fine would be just $500.

Lawmakers in New York City and Georgia also introduced legislation on temporary tag fraud in the wake of Streetsblog's reporting, but those bills appear to have stalled. The legislators who introduced those bills did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

James Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, expressed support for the temporary plate redesign but said more must be done to tamp down on the illegal trade in the paper tags.

"More secure paper is just the beginning of a series of management and regulatory oversight actions the NJMVC will and must implement to stop the illicit use or sale of temporary registrations," he said.

"Internal NJMVC controls and oversight of temp tag issuance is what is needed to identify and eliminate bad actors."

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Disabled NYer’s are Victims of Gov. Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause

So many New Yorkers can’t use the closest subway station to their homes because they don't have an elevator. And Gov. Hochul just halted funding for 23 new lifts.

July 23, 2024

DOT Will Fast-Track Private Sidewalk E-Bike Charging Stations

The mayor announced a new sidewalk e-bike charging station initiative, along with progress on the e-bike battery swap program and more money to FDNY for educational outreach.

July 23, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: LEGO Finally Gets It Edition

Streetsblog has had our issues with LEGO over the years, but we're willing to forgive. Plus other news.

July 23, 2024

Speeding Fuels Pedestrian Death Crisis As Council Stalls ‘Sammy’s Law’ Changes

Pedestrian fatalities were up 27 percent in the first six months of the year compared to 2023.

July 23, 2024

Bike Rack Saves Pedestrians in Crash on Busy Brooklyn Street

The white Hyundai involved in the crash has been nabbed 10 times by city speed- and red-light cameras since Oct. 10, 2023, city records show.

July 22, 2024
See all posts