What’s one kind of scam targeting you and everyone you know? Imposter scams. They happen when scammers pretend to be a person, business, or government agency you trust, then try to convince you to send money. One of their latest targets: people who own tractor-trailer trucks and other commercial vehicles.
According to the FTC’s lawsuit filed earlier this month, a company calling itself DOT Authority led commercial truck owners to believe they were dealing with the real U.S. Department of Transportation or another government agency. The reason? DOT Authority tricked them into paying extra service fees for help filing their federal and state motor carrier registrations. DOT Authority used robocalls, emails, and text messages to scare people into believing that if they didn’t pay DOT Authority, they faced a $1,000 fine. Most of the people targeted owned small family businesses with only a few employees and fewer than five trucks.
Owners that paid DOT Authority — instead of renewing their registration through the official Unified Carrier Registration website — did get their registration renewed, but they paid up to $550 more than the official government fee to do it.
That wasn’t all. Commercial truck owners also have to recertify information about their vehicles every two years or deactivate their USDOT number if they’re no longer operating. That’s free through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. But DOT Authority charged people between $25 and $200 to download the form for recertification and $200 to file for deactivation.
If that weren’t enough, the company also put people into an automatic renewal program without their permission, taking out money again and again every year. The scheme, which began as early as 2012, took in more than $19 million from thousands of people throughout the U.S.