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Yes, scofflaws try to scam the DMV

I received a notice from the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles requesting proof of my automobile insurance. What's up? My registration isn't due for another year. What brought this about? Are people just getting insured long enough to register their car and then dropping the insurance?

— Anne W., Ashland

Our editors were poised for yet another scam story, thinking someone was posing as a government agency worker wanting to rectify your issue with a quick credit card payment. But, alas, this is another type of scam.

We're told by DMV spokesman David House that it's an all-too-common occurrence for drivers to obtain insurance, display it for the purpose of getting a new registration, and then cancelling the insurance, pocketing the refund, and proceeding to pull out onto the roads we all drive.

The scary thing, House said, is that DMV has no clue how many uninsured drivers are barreling down your street or slipping and sliding on state highways on icy mornings.

"It's a statistic that has always eluded us," House said. "It's impossible to get that number because you can go back and drop your insurance the next day."

House said it's usually for "economic reasons."

One way DMV combats scofflaws who drop their insurance and keep on driving is to randomly mail out notices, such as the one you received.

"What we do is verify people's insurance from the driver and insurance companies," House said. "It's important to respond to the letter. Generally, the company name and policy number is pretty much all we need."

Sometimes people have pulled a car off the road, put it into storage, and aren't operating the vehicle, he said. Sometimes, people have missed their payment, and the insurance has lapsed.

The bottom line, House said, is that drivers who don't have insurance best get with the program, buy the insurance and keep it.

"If it's not corrected," he said, "you can get a ticket, and that can lead to suspension."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.