Editor’s note: This story was updated.
Hidalgo County Tax Assessor Collector Paul Villarreal launches new program to reduce vehicle title transfer fraud called Motor Vehicle Title Service Licensing Program.
The new program requires that anyone who is not employed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and gets compensated to conduct a vehicle title name transfer, must now have a Motor Vehicle Title Service License.
The Texas Secretary of State had to approve the program before it started, and established the program under the Texas Administrative Code.
“I am very happy with this program,” Villarreal said. “It’s going to be where now the people who are doing this type of work without a license are going to have to think about it twice, because we are on the look out , and of course you can be prosecuted if you are doing something illegal.”
Villarreal says Hidalgo County sees a large amount of cases involving fraudulent title registrations and title transfer, and created the program to protect tax payers from fraud.
Bridgepoint, a privately owned licensing company, has been working with the county for the past ten years.
President and CEO of Bridgepoint, David Cantu, said his office deals with a lot of paperwork from victims of fraud.
“There is a lot of people out there that advertise title registrations, or assistance in getting registrations done and stuff, and a lot of fraudulent things can come from that,” Cantu said. “Not that everybody does that, but there is a lot that do.”
Cantu’s staff had to be deputized in order to work with the DMV; they had to pass a background check, and endure an intensive training course to be able to work at Bridgepoint.
Cantu said he is happy to hear everyone else who performs similar duties will have to go through the same licensing process to ensure their accountability.
By requiring a license, Villarreal said the county will see a decrease in people who currently get away with not paying the appropriate fees that come with transferring the possession of a vehicle.
“When somebody buys a vehicle from somewhere and never transfers the vehicle to their name, they’re not paying the county’s fees, and they are not paying the state controller fees,” said Villarreal. “Plus, at the same time, they are not paying the fees that go to the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
The program went into effect this week. Two people have already applied for the Motor Vehicle Title Service License.
The initial fee for a license is $500, and it will cost $200 to renew.