The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged two individuals and their companies with perpetrating a massive fraud on commercial trucking businesses, scamming them into paying fees for federal and state motor carrier registrations by impersonating government transportation agencies.
According to the lawsuit, the fraudulent company, named DOT Authority, used robocalls, emails and text messages that warned of $1,000 in civil penalties or fines for non-compliance, and threatened imminent law enforcement to “scare” the targeted companies into using the company’s registration services.
Instead of renewing their registrations through the official Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) website, the truck owners paid DOT Authority the UCR fees directly, which DOT Authority paid on the trucking company’s behalf.
However, DOT Authority failed to disclose that the total amount charged to consumers included its service fees, and charged trucking companies up to $550 more than the official government fee to do so.
To further their scheme, DOT Authority took advantage of a carrier’s requirement to recertify information and notify the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) about their vehicles every two years, or deactivate their USDOT number if they are no longer operating.
DOT Authority charged each company between $25 and $200 to download the form for recertification and a fee of $200 if they were to file for deactivation.
FMCSA does not charge fees for recertifying/deactivating information.
DOT Authority also put the truck owners into an automatic renewal/payment program without the owner’s permission.
FTC says that the scheme began as early as 2012 and over the past four years, DOT Authority took in more than $19 million from thousands of people throughout the U.S.