Question: Just recently, I found an advertisement in another trade publication about credit repair. I’ve heard this could be illegal. Would you please help make OOIDA members and Land Line readers aware of this rip-off and other scams by writing about them in your column? I’ve already notified the publisher of the trade magazine that carried the ad. —Robert P.
Answer: Robert, thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. With all the economic problems truckdrivers are facing today, it follows that credit troubles could result for many of them. It’s true that drivers, as well as other consumers, could easily be victimized by credit repair scams advertised in various publications or via unsolicited e-mail.
A poor credit history can cause a number of hardships, including the inability to obtain equipment financing, insurance or a home mortgage. The resulting embarrassment that frequently accompanies such difficulties often prevents the victim from obtaining qualified assistance, which in turn, opens the door for companies that offer credit repair scams.
The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to avoid falling for claims made by unscrupulous companies who offer to erase bad credit or create a new credit identity. In fact, credit repair scams are listed on the FTC’s Web site (www.ftc.gov) as one of its “dirty dozen” most likely to lure you into throwing good money after bad.
According to the FTC, only time, serious effort on your part and a debt repayment plan will improve your credit report. If you have negative information on your credit report that is both accurate and timely, it is unlikely that you can get it removed; however, you can request that inaccurate and/or incomplete information be investigated ... and it doesn’t cost you anything for this service. Simply ask the credit-reporting agency to send you a dispute form, make your written rebuttal and send them copies of any supporting documentation.
Credit repair clinics appeal to financially hard-pressed consumers through advertisements sent through bulk e-mail, shown on television or published in magazines or newspapers. Save your money and avoid the legal hassles that may be involved if you follow a credit clinic’s advice to misrepresent yourself by providing false information on loan applications, or by obtaining an employer identification number or Social Security number under false pretenses. Doing so is fraudulent and will most certainly compound your financial problems if you have to hire legal counsel to avoid prosecution for such actions.
There are also many truck “lease-purchase” scams that prey on people with credit problems. Recruiters for motor carriers push these types of arrangements to drivers who aspire to become owner-operators, but may lack the credit standing or down payment that is required for purchasing a truck.
In reality, the driver never really owns the truck under a lease-purchase arrangement. He makes payments and maintains the truck while driving it for the carrier and sometimes has the option to purchase it at the end of the lease, but he doesn’t really own it during the term of the lease. The sad part is that most drivers are not able to successfully complete the term of the lease, and they end up forfeiting ownership of the truck and losing several thousand dollars as well.
This rip-off not only hurts the driver involved, but also ultimately affects the entire trucking industry by deceiving truckers into working for nothing, which in turn enables carriers to move freight at a cheaper rate, thus driving freight rates down for the entire industry.
Another popular scam that could negatively affect truckdrivers involves ads for international driver’s licenses or permits claiming to authorize you to drive legally in the United States even if your CDL has been suspended or revoked for too many points.
Such claims are bogus and could cost victims hundreds of dollars. Non-native speaking people are frequently targeted through ads in foreign-language newspapers, according to the FTC. These fake licenses are sold on the Internet and can sometimes be obtained from local storefronts as well.
The legitimate purpose of an international driver’s permit is to allow residents of one country to drive in another country provided they have a valid driver’s license issued by their own government. The IDP basically translates the information contained on your driver’s license, and if you’re a U.S. resident, it’s useless here. You can’t even use an IDP for identification purposes, and they certainly aren’t intended to use in place of your state-issued CDL.
As a U.S. resident, you could be in big trouble if you get caught using an IDP in place of your CDL. Charges could include driving without a license or driving with a suspended or revoked license. In addition, since an IDP isn’t valid proof of your identity, you could be carted off to jail for withholding your identity unless you can produce a valid license or other legitimate identification. This is of particular importance considering the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
If you are a victim of a scam, or you want additional information, visit the FTC Web site, www.ftc.gov, or call toll free at 1-877-382-4357.
If you have questions that you’d like answered, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to me at PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. Although we won’t be able to publish all questions in Land Line, you will receive a response