Sunday, August 10, 2008

International Driver's License Scams

It's great to rent a car overseas and drive yourself. Not so great if you are driving with an illegal international driving permit, called an IDP. So beware of buying a fraudulent license, especially over the internet.

There are only two organizations in the United States which can issue a proper, legal IDP to drivers holding a license issued by one of the 50 US states. One is the AAA, the other is the American Automobile Touring Alliance. That's it. Just those two. Anybody else offering to sell you an international driver permit is a scam and a fraud, and if you're stopped by a foreign police officer with one of these make-believe permits, you could spend the rest of your vacation in a foreign jail.

Authentic IDPs and Inter-American Driving Permits (IADPs) are official translations of a motorist’s driver’s license, for use when driving in another country. Anyone 18 years or older who presents a valid U.S. driver’s license can get one on at any of the more than 1,100 AAA offices around the country, or by mail following instructions on the AAA website.

An IDP costs just $15 from AAA, $20 from AATA. Anybody charging you more than that should throw up red flags -- it's a tip-off to a rip-off. Some of these scammers are charging hundreds of dollars. One website I checked promises your application will be processed within 12 hours. Terrific. If you go to an AAA office with the proper documents, your legal, $15 application will be issued on the spot, in under one hour.

Plus, you can be sure the AAA won't sell your driver's license information to other scammers who are in the business of identify theft, and cause you years of financial grief.

These on-line permit scams are nothing new. They're just easier now thanks to the internet. The US Federal Trade Commission has been warning us about these scams, and telling the fraudulent marketers their conduct won’t be tolerated.

Drive safe. Drive legal.

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