The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is once again reminding motor carriers to be on the lookout for a new fraud scheme designed to get banking and financial information from unsuspecting victims.
“Motor carrier service providers and third-party administrators or their employees can and do provide valuable services to motor carriers and new entrants in the motor carrier community,” the agency stated in a memo dealing with fraudulent or aggressive marketing campaigns. “The use of a private entity or company to assist a motor carrier with compliance is certainly an option for motor carrier officials and new entrant applicants. However, the use of a service provider is NOT required by FMCSA. The U.S. government does not endorse private businesses.”
The suggestions were first published in a November 2013 letter dealing with aggressive or fraudulent marketing schemes. It is being redistributed as a reminder following reports that a bogus letter requesting a financial information release is making its rounds to unsuspecting motor carriers.
The phony document follows a well-used template that the DOT has issued dozens of warnings about since at least 2005. All of the letters claim to have been sent on behalf of Equifax, a credit reporting agency. The latest letters are signed by “Thad Brown.”
The FMCSA reissued its four-page statement on fraud and aggressive marking in response to a Land Line request last week for comments from the agency on what motor carriers can do to protect themselves from bogus solicitations.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, the agency does not actually require any financial information to be submitted in order for a motor carrier to be eligible for procurements.
According to the FMCSA memo, commonly encountered marketing techniques that are confusing or misleading include the following schemes:
- A caller or written solicitation has a name very similar to USDOT/FMCSA but is not, in fact, a U.S. government agency.
- A caller conveys urgency for a carrier to provide credit card or other payment information immediately by telephone or suffer immediate consequence. FMCSA officials and representatives do not ask for credit card numbers by telephone.
- A caller or solicitation states they are “endorsed” by FMCSA. U.S. government agencies do not endorse any businesses or third-party service providers. Motor carrier third-party service providers often provide valuable services but are NOT required by FMCSA. FMCSA provides support free of charge.
- Vague responses from a caller when asked if they are an employee or authorized representative of FMCSA.
Among the recent solicitations resulting in complaints or concerns reported by motor carrier officials are solicitations for services such as:
- Drug and Alcohol Supervisor Training
- FMCSA Regulatory and Compliance Support, generally
- UCR: Unified Carrier Registration Compliance
- URS: Biennial Unified Registration System Compliance
The memo also states to beware of any correspondence suggesting or demanding payments via PayPal, which the FMCSA does not use.
The agency recommends carriers do the following:
- Carefully read written solicitations and notices .
- Make callers slow down and ensure you understand them clearly.
- If you are contacted by a telemarketer or receive an e-mail, fax, text, or letter that leads you to believe you are in contact with a representative of the US Government, confirm you are speaking to a U.S. government official.
- Look for a small print disclaimer on the solicitation or notice that states that the company is not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Transportation or FMCSA, or that states it is a private entity or company.
- When speaking to a caller who is unknown to you, and before conducting business or providing credit card or banking information, ask the caller if he or she is an FMCSA official or a duly authorized representative of the U.S. government or a service provider or third party administrator. FMCSA does not ask for credit card information over the phone.
- If a caller or a written communication states they are a service provider or third-party administrator, then they are not an employee of the U.S. Department of Transportation or FMCSA.
If you are unsure whether or not you are speaking to or corresponding with the U.S. Department of Transportation, ask the caller for their name and call-back number and then call FMCSA’s information line at 1-800-832-5660 for assistance and verification.
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