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April 13, 2021 11:45 AM, EDT

FMCSA: Beware of Companies Posing as Government Agencies

Iowa highway trafficTraffic on I-380 south of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (The Cedar Rapids Gazette)

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials posted a warning to truckers on April 8 to be aware of “predatory” companies that pose as government agencies.

The message came one day after the Iowa attorney general issued a news release announcing it reached an agreement with a Texas company that agreed to refund money to any Iowa truck drivers that paid it $149 to submit federal documents that can be filed for free.

The company, Compliance Processing Group of Frisco, Texas, sent past-due notices to Iowa truck drivers under the name FMCSA Compliance Processing Group. The letters warned that the truckers must “contact us immediately” or risk fines of $1,000 a day — for a total of up to $10,000 — and risk being taken out of service, “per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

FMCSA Noncompliance Exhibit by Transport Topics

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller dubbed the company’s letter a “scam” that takes advantage of a requirement that every company that holds a U.S. DOT number update their company information every two years by updating the MCS-150 form.

“The company’s mailer deceptively implies it is sent by a government agency and that failure to respond could be punished with civil penalties,” Miller alleged. “In smaller print at the bottom of the mailers, the letter stated that FMCSA Compliance Processing Group was not a government agency.”

In its warning, FMCSA said it is aware that motor carrier officials and new entrant applicants often receive “confusing or misleading solicitations” from service providers or third-party administrators by telephone, email, text and U.S. mail. “These businesses obtain your company’s information when you submit an application or update your information with FMCSA, because your basic carrier information is publicly available,” FMCSA said.

The warning said that FMCSA does not contact carriers via telemarketers or “robocall” automated telephone solicitations, nor does it request credit card numbers by telephone or charge a fee for downloadable forms that can be found at fmcsa.dot.gov/mission/forms.

FMCSA said that predatory companies often contact new carriers after they complete online transactions with FMCSA. Aggressive or fraudulent marketing complaints have included carriers being pressured to immediately enroll in drug and alcohol supervisor training, offer general agency regulatory and compliance support, Unified Carrier Registration compliance or biennial updates, FMCSA said.

“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, and the use of a private entity or company to assist a motor carrier with compliance is an option for motor carrier officials and new entrant applicants,” the agency said.

“However, the U.S. government does not endorse private businesses or vendors, and the use of a service provider is not required by FMCSA,” FMCSA said.

Under federal law, impersonating “an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States” 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, the agency said.

The agency said that truckers who want to report a fraudulent request for information to DOT should contact the Office of Inspector General Hotline via oig.dot.gov/hotline or by calling (800) 424-9071.

Iowa did not seek to penalize or fine Compliance Processing Group, but issued an assurance of voluntary compliance that requires the company to no longer operate in Iowa. The company’s manager, Robert Corrigan, did not return a phone message seeing comment. However, the compliance document noted that the company denied it engaged in “acts or practices which had the tendency to mislead a substantial number of consumers as to a material fact or facts.”

“We were using the Iowa consumer fraud act,” said attorney general spokesman Lynn Hicks. “Our main interest was basically to get these guys out of town. We were able to do that without going to court and getting an injunction or small penalty.”

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