UPDATE 5/11/2017 – Due to a lot of pressure, the FMCSA gave in (ironically by phone calls) and will return phone numbers to SAFER starting next week.
FMCSA is aware that motor carrier officials and new entrant applicants often receive confusing or misleading solicitations, as we wrote about in a previous post, from service providers or third party administrators by telephone, e-mail, text, and US Mail.
These businesses obtain your company’s information when you submit an application or update your information through the FMCSA Unified Registration System as the information is publicly available.
According to Dave Gray, President of Glostone Trucking Solutions, “We have seen official looking solicitations as if they were coming directly from the FMCSA or other government agency. These solicitations ask the carrier to pay UCR fees, update their MCS 150 form and even take required Reasonable Suspicion Training. They prey on lack of knowledge and fear. The price they ask is almost always extremely high and the fine print has the carrier signing up for automatic renewal.”
The problem is even worse for new carriers applying for new Authority to operate as a for-hire carrier. Within minutes of submitting the URS Authority Application, the phone starts ringing with solicitations.
How big is the fraudulent problem anyway?
In October of 2016, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against James Lamb and several of his motor carrier business services companies claiming they scammed thousands of carriers out of nearly $20 million dollars using deceptive practices.
Under federal law, impersonating “an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States” in order to demand or obtain “any money, document, or thing of value” can result in a fine as well as imprisonment for up to three years (18 USC § 912).
What is being done to stop or prevent these negative solicitations?
The problem has become so bad, investigations are underway by the FMCSA to identify these solicitors and order them to cease and desist if not prosecute. And that’s just the start.
One of the FMCSA staff in charge of the investigations mentioned they “are knee deep in investigating these illicit solicitations and phone calls our customers receive.”
Now, over the weekend, there has been an important change. The SAFER portal removed carrier phone numbers in order to make it harder for these illegal or deceptive solicitations from happening. There are many other sites that post the public information, but the FMCSA is taking a big step to address the problem by removing phone numbers from SAFER.
Already, there seems to be an effect. Drew with Turnkey Authority, a company that helps set-up new authorities for trucking companies, found that “what took solicitors 5-10 seconds for their first marketing call is now taking nearly 3 hours.” It should be interesting to see how things change long-term.
What should companies do if they have been a victim of fraud?
The FMCSA says that if you have been the victim of fraud and experienced a loss, please report the crime to Law Enforcement. You should report any compromised banking or credit card information to your financial institution or Credit Card Company immediately.
If you would like to report a fraudulent request for information to DOT, please contact the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline via https://www.oig.dot.gov/hotline or by calling (800) 424–9071.
You can also read our previous article that goes over 10 Things You Can Do To Avoid Fraud.