Target 8: Scammers print fake paper license plates to avoid paying tolls

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Apparently toll scammers are getting pretty slick—just ask a well-known Bay Area gardener.

Some toll busters are using laser printers to replicate Florida temporary tags and joy riding at the expense of others.

Stan DeFreitas, better known as “Ask Mr. Greenthumb”, who carved out a career solving the challenges of gardening in Florida, is a victim of this budding problem.

“I hate paying for something that isn’t me, and I didn’t go through those tolls,” said Mr. DeFreitas.

From January through April, Florida Department of Transportation invoices show he was billed for driving on toll roads he didn’t use in a car he didn’t own.

“I’d call them up and say, it wasn’t me. I don’t have a Nissan Maxima and I don’t have the other car that they showed,” explained Mr. DeFreitas.

The bills began for tolls in the Miami area in December. That’s about the same time he was issued a temporary tag for his new car.

Mr. DeFreitas claims he told the state that he destroyed the tag when he registered his new car.

“That didn’t matter, they said pay us the money,” he added.

The problem blossomed even further when letters from a collection agency arrived.

“And they’d say, you know, if you want to get your tag next year, you better just pay us the money,” Mr. DeFreitas said.

When he disputed the bill, he says he was told to call the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“I called the DMV once and they laughed at me,” he explained. “The lady said, yeah you can call us, but you better pay the money.”

After 4 months of going nowhere, Mr. DeFreitas contacted Target 8.

“I called you and a miracle, all of a sudden they realize I wasn’t driving the car and it’s not mine,” said Mr. DeFreitas.

According to Mr. DeFreitas, a state investigator told him the Nissan did have a paper plate that matched his.

“He said well apparently this happens quite a bit, somebody gets a laser printer, they print off paper tags and then they go their happily way across the state just going through tolls,” recalled DeFreitas.

Now “Ask Mr. Greenthumb” can turn his attention to back to the challenges in the garden instead of on the toll road.

“I think 8 On Your Side is a great service for the community and I give you all kudos and a good pat on the back,” he said.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated contact our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or you can reach Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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