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September 3, 2019 4:45 PM, EDT

Scam Uses DOT Biennial Update Deadlines to Target Wisconsin Trucking Firms

Trucks travel on Interstate 39/90 between Madison and Beloit in south-central Wisconsin Trucks travel on Interstate 39/90 between Madison and Beloit in south-central Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

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Wisconsin-based trucking companies have been warned about scam letters informing them they have accrued late fees by failing to file their biennial update with the U.S. Department of Transportation on time.

A firm called DotService.com has sent letters to carriers informing them they are past due to file their update. The entity signed the letters as a “DOT Compliance Group.” The scammers ask the reader to navigate to their website, which prompts them to enter their USDOT number and provide credit card information. The actual procedure for filing the biennial update with the agency is free.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation circulated a widespread alert about the scam Aug. 30.

“Our Motor Carrier Services Section has been receiving calls from trucking companies asking about the validity of these letters and emails,” WisDOT spokeswoman Terry Walsh said. “We reached out to our motor carriers a few weeks ago but thought a broad reminder was in order.”

The Markesan Police Department alerted people to the scam and posted images of the phony letter to its Facebook page. The police advised people to throw the letter away and pass information about the scam on to family and friends who operate trucks. Markesan lies 60 miles north of Madison.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all trucking companies under its jurisdiction to update their information every two years, regardless of whether the company has changed any information or has ceased interstate operations.

According to FMCSA’s website, failure to complete a biennial update results in deactivation of a firm’s USDOT number and may result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day, not to exceed $10,000.

Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association President Neal Kedzie said his group put out a notice to its members as soon as it found out about the scam Aug. 30. WMCA also placed an alert on its Facebook page.

Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association President Neal Kedzie

Kedzie

“Steer away and make sure that you’re filing it with FMCSA or the link that the DOT provides,” Kedzie said.

Filing deadlines depend upon the last digit of a company’s USDOT number. For example, companies with USDOT numbers ending in 1 must file by the last day of January. Those with numbers ending in 5 must file by the last day of May. Those with numbers ending in 0 must file by the last day of October.

According to FMCSA’s website, if the next-to-last digit of a USDOT number is odd, the motor carrier or intermodal equipment provider needs to file its update in every odd-number calendar year. If the next-to-last digit of the USDOT number is even, the motor carrier or intermodal equipment provider must file its update in every even-number calendar year.

Kedzie pointed out the timing of the letters is well-positioned to rattle drivers who are trying to meet their deadlines by the end of the month.

“[It’s a] good way to provide a scare tactic,” Kedzie said. “It doesn’t surprise me, with all the scammers that are out there. A lot of these smaller entities are probably scrambling last minute to try and get that done.”