Ask Shoppers: Who Are You?

Dealership employees, by training and disposition, are not confrontational with the public. Confrontation doesn't sell cars. It doesn't satisfy customers. Your employees may fear that asking for proof of identity may be rude and interfere with the attempt to build rapport. However, today's atmosphere requires a new set of rules. Technology makes it easy for an outlaw to pretend to be someone else

Dealership employees, by training and disposition, are not confrontational with the public. Confrontation doesn't sell cars. It doesn't satisfy customers.

Your employees may fear that asking for proof of identity may be rude and interfere with the attempt to build rapport. However, today's atmosphere requires a new set of rules.

Technology makes it easy for an outlaw to pretend to be someone else to defraud the dealership or get information to facilitate a crime. So, it is not rude or out of place to ask customers, employment candidates and others: “Who are you?”

Here's where due diligence is in order:

Test drives

A dealership must know two critical pieces of information about any customer about to go on a test drive: who they are and can they legally drive?

The easiest way to learn that is to ask for a driver's license. If the prospect does not have a license and causes an accident, the dealer could be liable for negligent entrustment.

And having a copy of a driver's license with a legible picture at the dealership is the salesperson's best defense against being carjacked. A carjacker does not want law enforcement to have a good picture, so if you don't have a good quality copier on the sales floor, get one and copy the driver's license of every prospect going on a test drive.

Customers

The dealership stands to lose the most in any sale to an identity thief. If your dealership has not yet put in place a program for compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's Red-Flags Rule, do it immediately. This formalized “know-your-customer” program is protection both for a person whose identity may be stolen and for your dealership.

Employees

Knowing who you hire would seem to be fundamental in any dealership personnel system. Whether it is protect your customers' non-public private information or the dealership's other assets, make sure that you know the real identity of the person you are hiring.

Under federal immigration law, every new employee must fill out a form I-9 and provide proof of residency and right to work. This will help verify their identity. At a minimum, the dealership should comply with its requirement to follow the federal I-9 process for every new employee.

Law enforcement personnel

Dealers sometimes get calls from people claiming to be police or other law enforcement personnel. Whether a caller is seeking information about a customer or employee or is just seeking private dealer information, know whether the caller is really with a law enforcement agency.

Don't provide information over the phone. You want to look at a badge or other proper credentials. If the caller is seeking information about a customer or employee, require a properly issued subpoena or other proper investigative demand.

Government official

Have you ever been visited by a “government official” claiming that you violated the law because of a credit application in a dumpster or an unsafe condition in your shop?

By some coincidence, that visit is followed by a call from a vendor suggesting that you protect yourself by buying the vendor's compliance program. No legitimate vendor uses that tactic, but that does not mean it doesn't happen.

It is unusual for a government official to visit a dealership. When one does, the person should have credentials and proper documentation authorizing an investigation. Demand to see them.

Attorney

Have you ever had a call from an attorney demanding that you solve a customer's problem or a suit will be filed immediately?

How do you know it's not the disgruntled customer's unemployed, high-school dropout brother-in-law on the other end of the line?

Attorneys have letterhead and access to a fax machine and e-mail. Require that the caller send you a letter confirming representation of the customer. Require a specific statement of what your dealership is supposed to have done wrong and the relief the customer is seeking.

Michael Charapp, an attorney with Charapp & Weiss, LLP who specializes in representing motor vehicle dealers, can be reached at (703) 564-0220 or [email protected]

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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