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Texas state fraud inspectors believe that millions of cars registered and being driven in the state never had emissions and safety inspections. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles found dealerships sold fake registrations for cash. It is done to avoid state license fees, or otherwise pass a vehicle that won’t pass smog testing. Or in the case of criminals, a way to avoid capture. 

What else besides bypassing Texas inspections is going on?

emissions inspections
Texas emissions inspections | Getty

Smaller dealers sell paper plates like those used for temporary registration after purchasing a new car. But the state has even given metal plates to vehicles that are in on the scam. But there’s more. 

As investigators dug further, they found another scam. Car owners are paying inspection stations to pass their vehicles for emissions that otherwise wouldn’t pass. They’re two separate scams, but the common thread is it involves both registration and inspections of Texas vehicles. 

Estimates are more than five million vehicles are plodding along Texas highways and byways without legit registration and/or emissions and safety inspections. The reason that there is so much fraud is because of the technology used for inspections. As it is now, it is fairly easy to fake a vehicle inspection. 

How are Texas emissions testers committing fraud?

Emissions analyzer
Emissions analyzer in tailpipe | Getty

NBC 5 conducted one of those local investigations that looked into the likely fraud. It shot footage of a Dallas inspection station. While no cars entered the facility in an hour’s span, the Texas Environmental Quality Commission received 23 inspection certifications. Obviously, things were not exactly on the level for this particular shop.

It is fairly easy to circumvent an inspection. Shops can use a passing reading from the analyzer to transfer to a car that otherwise would not pass. But that’s the old way to get a vehicle to pass. 

Now, flash drives, put into analyzers, can simulate clean emissions tests. It then simulates a car’s emissions control system, resulting in a passing score. The goal is a “clean scan.”

How easy is it to get a fake test and registration?

inspection station
State emissions inspection station | Getty

It is uploaded into the state’s vehicle inspection system, and the scam is complete. But not actually being at the emission station, the passing car doesn’t receive a safety inspection. That happens or is supposed to happen, concurrent with emissions testing. So car owners in on the scam pay for a phony emissions certificate and get a free pass on the safety inspection. 

The practice is so out-in-the-open that the service shows up on social media. Costs range from $100 to $500. But an easy tipoff for inspectors is the number of clean scan tests originating for certain shops. Because legitimate tests take a certain amount of time, the volume of tests coming from certain shops would be impossible to complete within a day’s testing. 

Another problem is that the Texas state agencies assigned oversight of inspections aren’t doing much to thwart fraud. Unfortunately, irregular results easily pass by the system, so oversight is necessary to catch

As NBC 5 shot footage of the same Dallas inspection station a few days later, over 20 vehicles passed inspection without observing any in the facility. When the news organization contacted Texas DPS about this, it suspended the station’s license the next day. That’s at least a start.


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