WILLIAMSBURG — Instances of fake vehicle inspection stickers are on the rise in the city, nd Officer Sean Hughes can spot knockoffs a mile away.
From August 2013 to now, there have been 39 total citations issued in Williamsburg. Hughes has written 30. The previous period, July 2012 and July 2013, yielded no citations for counterfeit stickers, according to Maj. Greg Riley with Williamsburg police, but there may have been a reason for that.
"Typically, every week I see at least a couple," Hughes said. "The most I've gotten in a day is four or five."
However, in 2013, differentiating real from fake was more difficult because of a fading issue with state inspection stickers, Hughes said. Stickers for 2014 and 2015 are easier to debunk on sight.
Hughes said he's seen so many brands of fake stickers that hecan identify a counterfeit while the car is still moving.
Subtle differences, such as color and font, distinguish authentic Virginia inspection stickers from altered or imitation stickers.
An offense can carry up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine if a motorist is caught with an altered sticker or a sticker that doesn't belong on their car, according to the Code of Virginia.
"The real stickers come with paperwork, a receipt," Hughes said. "Of course the fake stickers, they don't have that, so people are always trying to make an excuse."
Stickers are sometimes altered by replacing the date square with a computer print out, Hughes explained. In counterfeiting cases, he said the entire sticker is often a fake.
In addition to nuances in the sticker's hue, fake stickers often have a different font. Hughes said the predominant font on counterfeit versions is Times New Roman, which is evident in the Rs. The Virginia state seal also appears bold on imitation stickers.
Hughes added that authentic state inspection stickers are actually three separate stickers, including the frame, the month and the year. Many of the fake stickers are one piece, which Hughes believes are probably computer generated.
Riley said drivers often say someone else got the car inspected or offer a similar story, so tracking the origin of the fake inspection stickers is a challenge.
"It's never really been something where we can follow it back or trace where they got them," Riley said.
Robertson can be reached at 757-345-2342.