Aug 11, 2023

The Aftermath of DOT Number Fraud and How Truckers are Coping

The trucking industry is vital to the American economy, and it is essential to ensure that it is operating safely and legally.

One of the critical aspects of this is the Department of Transportation (DOT) number, which is a unique identifier given to each commercial vehicle.

However, with the increasing demand for trucking services, some dishonest individuals have found ways to take advantage of the system by committing DOT number fraud.

This fraudulent activity has severe consequences for trucking companies, drivers, and public safety. The aftermath of DOT number fraud can be overwhelming, leaving truckers and companies to face hefty fines, legal actions, and damaged reputations.

Have you heard of fake reviews, online reviews, mixed reviews that triggers your scam radar or fraud alert? 

In this blog post, we will explore the different types of DOT number fraud, the consequences for those involved, and how truckers are coping with the aftermath. We will delve into the challenges that truckers face, the impact of fraud on their businesses, and the strategies they have put in place to avoid falling victim to the scam. It is essential to understand

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What Do the Owner Operators Says: A Case Study

Toni and Chris Murphy, proprietors of a trucking company based in New Egypt, New Jersey, have been grappling with a challenging situation. They have been victimized by an elusive and technologically adept fraudster who has stolen their company's identity.

This individual has fraudulently used the Murphys' Department of Transportation number to post loads and collect payments for those loads. The perpetrator has subsequently vanished, leaving the Murphys to deal with the aftermath of this deceit. The Murphys have encountered various obstacles in their attempts to combat this insidious fraud.

Toni Murphy, the owner of Murphy's Trucking, expressed her gratitude towards a driver who reported fraudulent activity on a website.

According to her, the driver posted that their company was not legitimate and that he had not been paid for three loads he had hauled.

She thanked the driver for his kindness and understanding after she explained that someone was pretending to be their company. Murphy hopes that the issue has been resolved quickly and that no one else has reported any further incidents. It is worth noting that the couple obtained their operating authority in March 2021.

How it Happened

During the spring season, Murphy of a certain company updated their Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150) using her personal identification number (PIN) provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's SAFER site.

It is mandatory for carriers to update their information every two years, adding or subtracting the number of trucks and trailers running under their operating authority, along with their mileage.

Apart from the online method, motor carriers have the option to submit their updates via mail or fax as well. However, it is uncertain how a scammer was able to modify the Murphys' data on SAFER in May.

Further investigation revealed that the scammer had requested a new PIN from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and submitted fraudulent paperwork through fax. This false information was then manually entered into the database by an FMCSA employee.

Despite investigations, there is currently no tangible evidence to trace the origin of this incident. As a precautionary measure, Murphy now diligently checks the SAFER database on a weekly basis to ensure the accuracy of their information. The Murphys' experience is unfortunately not unique, as thousands of carriers have also been targeted by fraudulent schemes within recent years.

The Response of FMCSA

In July, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a new requirement for carriers submitting their MCS-150s through paper applications. They are now required to include a copy of their commercial driver's license to verify their identity. This measure has been labeled as a temporary adjustment.

However, it has come to light that some opportunistic individuals have been using this requirement to their advantage. The Owner-Operator Independent Truck Drivers Association, an organization that represents small-business truckers, has reported that some motor carriers have received requests for copies of their CDLs from brokers on load boards before accepting loads. It is important for carriers to stay vigilant and ensure that they are only providing sensitive information to legitimate sources.

According to Cicely L. Waters, a representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the trucking industry has expressed concerns about an increase in fraudulent activity, particularly in relation to fraudulent brokerage practices. The FMCSA is actively engaged in discussions regarding fraud prevention, which is a crucial component of their plans for improving their registration system moving forward. The agency is dedicated to ensuring the integrity of the trucking industry and protecting the interests of all stakeholders involved.

According to a statement given to FreightWaves, Waters emphasized that the upcoming registration system will feature robust and automated identity verification and validation procedures with a focus on preventing fraudulent activities. Furthermore, proactive measures are being taken to tackle the diverse range of fraudulent activities that have been plaguing the industry.

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Efforts are being made by load boards to combat fraudulent activities within their platforms

Two key players in the load board industry are making strides to combat freight fraud, specifically double brokering, and eliminate unscrupulous entities from their networks.

DAT Freight & Analytics, headquartered in Oregon and a major North American load board provider, reported that in 2023 it has already prevented 2,400 accounts from accessing the DAT One network, and removed over 3,000 accounts in 2022.

Meanwhile, Truckstop, another major load board platform, recently launched a weekly series called “Fraud Prevention Friday” to tackle fraudulent practices in the industry.

For their part, the Murphys - a hypothetical trucking company - do not heavily rely on load boards to secure freight. Instead, they favor working with a trusted broker to haul freight for loyal customers.

According to Toni Murphy, on occasion, they would utilize the boards to locate additional cargo, but their loyal patrons played a critical role in preventing identity theft. These devoted customers recognize and comprehend their company's unique character and were instrumental in differentiating it from imposters.

The Aftermath of the Incidents of DOT Number Theft

Toni Murphy has been diligently taking necessary measures to safeguard her trucking company's interests after experiencing a fraudulent incident. She has devoted considerable effort in reaching out to relevant parties such as FMCSA, brokers, customers, and her insurance company provider.

Additionally, she has taken legal action by filing a police report in her locality. Murphy has acknowledged that she may have overlooked checking SAFER regularly before, but the unfortunate incident has made her vigilant and cautious in her dealings. She has emphasized the importance of being proactive and vigilant in the industry to avoid becoming a victim of fraudulent activities and non-payment issues.

Waters has mentioned a few preliminary measures that have already been implemented to avert fraudulent practices:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented various measures to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of information submitted through paper applications to their Contact Center. One such measure requires a copy of the driver's license to be provided as proof of identity. Additionally, the FMCSA has temporarily disabled the ability to obtain a USDOT PIN online as a security measure against unauthorized access to customer accounts.

  • In efforts to further validate a customer's principal place of business (PPOB), the FMCSA has taken steps to verify that the physical address provided is recognized by the U.S. Postal Service. This requirement will apply to all applicants, ensuring that only legitimate businesses are given access to FMCSA resources.

  • To provide clarity and compliance with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the 2023 Appropriations Act, the FMCSA has released guidance on the definitions of a broker and dispatch services. This guidance was first published in November 2022 and again in June, ensuring that all parties are

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking a proactive approach to addressing illegal brokerages within the transportation industry. As part of this effort, FMCSA will be referring broker-related cases to the Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice, if necessary.

  • FMCSA is increasing its efforts to detect, prevent, and put a stop to unlawful brokerage practices. Through a combination of comprehensive enforcement, research, and outreach initiatives, FMCSA is dedicated to tackling this issue head-on.

  • By implementing these measures, FMCSA aims to ensure that all brokerages operating within the transportation industry are operating in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. This will help to promote a fair and level playing field for all businesses in the industry, while also enhancing safety and security for all individuals involved.

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is dedicated to informing consumers and industry partners about federal regulations regarding brokerage actions. Through education efforts, the FMCSA aims to assist individuals in identifying entities that may be operating in violation of federal law.

  • The agency has made strides to improve public messaging on both registration and customer service websites. These updates serve to inform the public of the reasoning behind various changes in regulations. Additionally, the FMCSA encourages customers to report instances of fraud and identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. By staying informed and reporting suspicious activity, individuals can help ensure compliance with federal law within the industry.

If you want to stay updated with the current trends in the trucking, freight, and logistics industry, stay connected to us.

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If you are looking for more information about drug and alcohol testing as a truck driver, visit LabWorks USA. Our DOT Consortium's friendly team will be more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have and work with you to ensure you are always fully compliant specially with random DOT drug and alcohol testing pre-employment testing. Moreover, if you need help with FMCSA Clearinghouse registration, we can further support you.