Weekly AG Newspaper Columns
Beware of International Driverís License Scams
Manufacturing false identifications has become an increasingly profitable criminal enterprise. Though many fake ID manufacturers are small-time operators who work in the shadows, the boldest among them are advertising fake international driverís licenses and claiming their products are entirely legal. These scams often leave their victims on the wrong side of the law.
International driverís license manufacturers generally market their unlawful products to persons who lack official citizenship documentation. They also target residents who lack the ability to drive legally in the U.S., including citizens whose state-issued driverís licenses have been suspended or revoked.
Anyone who presents a fake international driverís license to law enforcement authorities as a legal form of identification could face real legal trouble. These documents are not worth the paper on which they are printed.
The Office of the Attorney General recently charged a Houston company with manufacturing and selling fake international driverís licenses. In that case, the defendants were selling their illegal products for as much as $225 per document.
Advertising campaigns in several states, which targeted the Hispanic community, claimed the licenses were ď100% LEGAL IDsĒ and promised that purchasers need not be state residents. In addition, the defendants inaccurately promised that possessing an international driverís license would expedite the buyerís ability to purchase and insure motor vehicles. The sellers also falsely claimed their licenses were authorized by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Our investigation indicates the defendants have never been authorized to issue international driverís licenses by any legitimate government entity, including the State of Texas, the U.S. government or the United Nations.
The Houston case is not our first encounter with this type of fraudulent enterprise. In 2003, the Office of the Attorney General shut down two companies that operated similar schemes. One defendant sold the fraudulent licenses from Dallas and Houston retail outlets.
While international driverís licenses do not legally exist, a legitimate government-issued document called an International Driving Permit allows non-citizens to drive in foreign countries. This document translates a valid government-issued driverís license into several different languages. Foreign drivers can therefore present it to local authorities who are unable to read or understand the driverís home-state license. International Driving Permits are often incorrectly referred to as international driverís licenses Ė a confusion that is easily exploited by enterprising criminals.
The U.S. recognizes International Driving Permits under the 1949 International Convention on Road Traffic (ICRT) treaty. Only countries that have joined the treaty officially recognize these permits.
The U.S. State Department has authorized only two American organizations to issue the ICRT permits: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). These organizations are only allowed to sell permits to drivers over the age of 18 who possess valid driverís licenses issued by a U.S. state or territory.
While the AAA and the AATA charge $10-$15 for each International Driving Permit, the Federal Trade Commission reports that scam artists charge between $65 and $350 for fraudulent international driverís licenses.
For more information on international driverís license scams, visit the FTCís Web site at www.ftc.gov or the Office of the Attorney Generalís Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
International Driverís License Scam
International driverís licenses are not valid documents.
U.S. residents who are traveling overseas may apply for an international driving permit by contacting one of two government-authorized issuers:
AAA (American Automobile Association)
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32745-5063
National Auto Club
1151 E. Hillsdale Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
For more information on this and other consumer topics, visit the Office of the Attorney Generalís Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.