What thieves are doing with license plates from stolen cars could get you pulled over

SOLANO COUNTY, California -- A new trend is resulting in innocent drivers being mistaken for car thieves.

Over the weekend, sheriff's officials in Solano County, California pulled over what they thought was a woman driving a stolen vehicle.

"The plate came back to a stolen Honda Civic. Waited for additional units. Performed a high-risk stop of the car," Solano County Sheriff's Deputy Christine Castillo said.

As it turned out, the car wasn’t stolen.

The license plate, however, was.

Officials learned someone had taken the plate off of her car and replaced it with one from a stolen car.

"If they had guns pointing at me, or came up aggressively, it would scare me so bad because I am not a criminal," Wanda Barkherst said.

Officials say this is the latest trend among car thieves. Solano County Sheriff's officials say it is something they are seeing more of -- and they are warning residents to be alert.

"It happens a few times a month for us. And those are just the ones we are able to contact and catch," Castillo added.

The switching of license plates buys a suspect more time behind the wheel of a stolen car.

So would car owners typically know if their plates were stolen?

"Truthfully, families have three, four cars. I don't think people would necessarily memorize all of their license plates," Alan Johnson said.

Officers suggest making it harder for a thief to steal a license plate in the first place, by securing it with all four screws.

It's also helpful if drivers try to remember their license plate number. If that's difficult -- maybe snap a photo of it.