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Are scammers using fake licence plates to put you on the hook for tickets?

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Feb 8th, 2017

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When Jennifer Silva and her husband received a parking infraction in the mail just after Christmas, they chalked it up to human error, a simple data entry mistake, they thought.

After all, they paid for a monthly parking spot downtown, and hadn’t received any tickets.

But when they took that ticket to Metro Hall for an explanation, a costly and time-consuming can of worms was sprung open.

“They told us it was one of eight such infractions,” Silva explained.

“We were shocked. At first we thought it was human error, but the fact that it happened so many times we knew that it was something suspicious.”

When the shock wore off, reality set in.

Someone, apparently using a fake licence plate, had racked up hundreds of dollars in parking tickets — and they were on the hook for them.

“We showed our proof that we are renting a spot down the street and they told us that (the tickets) could not be cancelled and we would have to file a court date for the eight tickets.”

It was only after they brought forth evidence that the sticker dates didn’t match the dates on their legitimate plates that the tickets were tossed.

Not long after they received another parking infraction notice in the mail, this time from the City of Hamilton for $85.

“It was not us,” Silva said. “We were not in Hamilton, not anywhere close to it.”

Unlike parking enforcement officers in Toronto, the ones in Hamilton take photos of vehicles they adorn with tickets.

The photo showed a different model car.

Remarkably, that still didn’t suffice.

“They suggested it could have been us who removed the plate and put it on a different vehicle,” she deadpanned.

The City of Hamilton did offer to cut half the price off the ticket.

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Fighting to prove their innocence has been draining on the couple.

“It’s very frustrating and disheartening,” Silva stressed. “It seems like it’s nobody’s responsibility, nobody takes ownership of it. It’s a very time-consuming process and it’s pretty expensive.”

The couple has since paid $57 for a new licence plate number, but they hope their story will shed light on the issue and spark change in Toronto.

“It would be lovely if they could bring in some checks in terms of either taking photographs like they do in Hamilton, or having some sort of flag that if the plate doesn’t match the sticker, that it’s a red flag and they could radio it in to police.”

“I think the policies and procedures really have to change so that they are doing their due diligence in catching people that do this…to innocent people.”

David Armstrong, shift supervisor for Toronto parking enforcement, says it’s the first time in his more than 15 years on the job that he’s seen a doctored plate being used in this manner.

“This is a new one for me,” he admitted. “You have a number of stolen vehicles reported each year and stolen licence plates and on occasion we will find plates taken and put on other vehicles…but this is a new one for us.”

Parking enforcement officers in Toronto currently take down plate information, but nothing more. When asked if they should be documenting things like vehicle makes and models, Armstrong said that decision would fall jointly on the Ministry of Transportation and the City.

In the meantime, Silva says that despite having the tickets thrown out, she’s still apprehensive.

“We are afraid that it might happen again,” she admits. “We are also concerned that someone could be using these plates for criminal activity.”

That fear could be justified, after Toronto police recently discovered a fake plate on a stolen vehicle in the downtown core.

“I’m sure that this is probably happening a lot more than we think,” Silva concluded. “But nobody has brought a light to it.”

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