Aggressive and misleading marketing, this is not the first time we have written about this subject and looks like it won’t be our last. For anyone who has applied for a DOT or MC, MX, or FF operating authority it is likely you have been bombarded with phone calls, faxes and emails from many different sources. They typically want you to sign up for monitoring services, driver file services, get your BOC-3 even supervisor training courses. Most of these sales pitches border on fraudulent due to their appearance of being vital, urgent, facing huge fines and so on.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has taken steps to stop these marketers or at the very least slow them down. Marketing and compliance agencies are mining the data gathered by the FMCSA during the application process. This information becomes publicly available on the FMCSA’s website. Last year the FMCSA started to require Captcha information to access this public data in an attempt to slow down data miners. Recently the FMCSA have removed telephone numbers from applicants public data for at least 24 hours as a bid to stop aggressive marketers who started robocalling within seconds of an application being submitted.
New and more frighting tactic
We have recently found another more stomach churning tactic from a compliance firm. It starts with someone from the firm registering with the FMCSA portal in a bid to gain access to your account. This generates a notice from the FMCSA indicating that so and so has submitting a request to gain access to your portal account. It says you can approve or deny the request and if you have any questions points you to the email address of the person trying to gain access.
Here is a copy of one such email:
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 10:47 AM
Subject: Account Request Submitted
Cxxxx Pxxxx has submitted a request for an FMCSA Portal account to access sensitive information related to USDOT Number 3XXXXXX that requires your approval or denial. You must log on to the FMCSA Portal using your Company Official account in order to approve or deny this request. Please ensure that the request is appropriate and accurate before making your decision. If a decision on this request is not entered in the FMCSA Portal within 60 days, the account request may be automatically deleted.
If you have any question regarding this account request, please contact Cxxx Pxxxxx directly at email@example.com.
If you no longer wish to receive these emails please update your email notification preferences located on the My Profile page of your FMCSA Portal Account.
Please do not reply to this message. If you have received this Email in error or need technical support, please contact (800 832-5660 or FMCSALicensing@dot.gov.
As you can see not only a very sneaky way to make contact but it’s really a brazen attempt to gain access to confidential information kept at the FMCSA. Do not give anyone you don’t know access to your FMCSA Portal Account.
Things to keep in mind
When you receive a phone call:
- 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.
Some of the most popular services being hawked are:
- Drug and Alcohol Supervisor Training
- FMCSA Regulatory and Compliance Support, generally
- UCR: Unified Carrier Registration Compliance
- URS: Biennial Unified Registration System Compliance
The FMCSA 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.
Additionally, if you have been a victim of fraud or have been misled by someone claiming to represent a federal agent The Office of Inspector General (OIG) maintains a Hotline for receiving allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement in U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) programs or operations. online or by calling 800-424-9071.
For Aggressive or Misleading Marketers complaints, you may file a complaint on the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database at https://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/nccdb/home.aspx and/or the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftc.gov and click on the “File A Consumer Complaint” button.