Erie woman’s temporary plates duplicated, used in crime

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ERIE, Colo. -- A local woman is speaking out after the temporary plates on her SUV were involved in a crime more than 300 miles from where she lives.

“Somebody scammed me,” Betsy Smith said.

On Wednesday morning, Smith got a call from a number she didn’t recognize. It was a detective with Durango police, saying her vehicle and temporary plates had just been caught on surveillance video. The detective said the vehicle was tied to credit card fraud.

“I was shaking. I was like, 'That’s not me.' I was terrified,” Smith said.

The surveillance video is from the Animas Auto Spa on Camino Del Rio in Durango. Police said when they ran the plate in the video, it came back registered to her. Smith told the officer it’s impossible. She still had her temporary plates in her shredding machine.

“I went to my office and pulled it out -- I’ve got it right here in my hand,” Smith said.

Police cleared Betsy and confirmed to the Problem Solvers that the criminals must have duplicated her tags and put them on an SUV similar to Smith’s 2018 Ford Edge.

“The general nature of them being a paper tag, it would not be difficult for somebody to manufacture one using home computer supplies,” Commander Jacob Dunlop with the Durango Police Department said.

While police continue to search for the five suspects caught on camera at the car wash, Smith plans to keep a close eye on her credit,  in case they ripped off more than just her plate.

“I’ll do a credit alert for a little while because if they could pull everything up off my VIN, anybody can."

She wants others to be cautious after buying a new car.

“Keep an eye on your car. It could happen to you, so just be careful,” Smith said.

“Make sure your tag is securely attached to the vehicle and when you’re finished using it, make sure to properly dispose of it before you put it in the trash,” Commander Dunlop said.

The DMV is also taking steps to reduce forged tags by adding additional features on temporary plates to make them more difficult to copy.

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