FTC Targets International Permit Offers

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The Federal Trade Commission filed complaints against six businesses it accused of using unsolicited commercial e-mail and Web sites to market fake international driver's permits, the agency said yesterday.


The permits, known as IDPs, were sold online for $65 to $375, the FTC said. The sellers claimed the permits were valid in most of the world due to an international law "loophole" and promoted them as a way around points and other driving penalties, according to the agency.


But the permits are available for as little as $10 and can be used only in conjunction with a state-issued driver's license, the FTC said. They are used mainly by travelers who drive abroad. Only two organizations, the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance, are authorized by the State Department to issue the permits in the United States.


IDPs are not valid in place of state-issued driver's licenses, and producing one during a traffic stop instead of a driver's license can lead to fines and jail time, the FTC said.


"You may end up at the stationhouse explaining where and how you got your IDP," said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau.


The businesses and individuals charged by the FTC include:


· Yad Abraham, who according to the FTC sold worthless IDPs on his Web site drivelegal.com for $350.


· Libertymall.com, which claimed to be an agent of the "International Travel Association" and sold laminated cards it claimed were IDPs for $65, according to the FTC.


· Better Business Cassette of America, or BBCOA, which ran a Web site that marketed a laminated card and purported IDP booklet resembling the real thing except that it bore the seal of the International Travel Association, the FTC said.


· PT Resource Center, accused by the FTC of running a Web site making claims similar to those on Libertymall.com and giving consumers precise instructions on what to say when stopped by police.


· Carlton Press, which used two Web sites to pitch booklets identical to those offered by BBCOA for $147, the FTC said.


· Institute for International Licensing, accused by the FTC of selling IDPs on two Web sites and advertising them as a way for drivers with poor records or suspended licenses to evade penalties. In each case, the FTC asked the court to halt the business' activities and award unspecified relief.


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