One day, a favorite general manager asked, “Who wins when a stupid criminal meets a greedy salesman?” Knowing him as I do, I knew he was just exercising a pregnant pause before delivering the punchline. So I kept my yap tight. Sure enough, he raised his voice to a fever pitch any carny would appreciate and answered his own query: “The stupid criminal always wins. The greedy salesman is just as stupid.”
This GM was definitely on point regarding identity thieves and car salespeople. One of the age-old red flags that you might be dealing with an ID thief is a person who agrees to an outrageous gross and buys every single F&I product. After all, she or he never intends to pay for it. More greedies than stupids, right?
I once co-hosted an auto dealer symposium. One panel’s topic dealt with identity theft. The panelists included an assistant U.S. attorney general, a postal inspector, and two county deputies. They all actively investigate and prosecute identity theft.
"Their first major point was identity thieves who attempt to commit the crime in person, particularly at a car dealership, are the stupid criminals. The risk of getting caught is just too great. The smart ones ply their trade online and through credit cards where the risk is much lower."
Their first major point was identity thieves who attempt to commit the crime in person, particularly at a car dealership, are the stupid criminals. The risk of getting caught is just too great. The smart ones ply their trade online and through credit cards where the risk is much lower.
The next point driven home was that these stupid criminals generally make mistakes that could have been detected with just a little bit of patience and due diligence by the employees involved in the transaction.
Finally, they shared a few novel tips that all dealerships could implement to improve their identity theft deterrence program. They were mostly common-sense practices that most dealers employ today. A couple of the tips, though, were insightful and novel.
We learned, for example, that each state has a liquor licensing board or division. Most of these boards have expert trainers on staff whose primary job is to train bar and liquor store employees on how to spot fake driver’s licenses. The experts indicated that the trainers would be just as willing to come to your dealership. One simple trick: a simple little UV light that can pick up the hologram on a driver’s license.
We also learned that the U.S. Postal Service produced a video on identity theft that can be the centerpiece of a training session. It can be viewed online at www.usps.com/postalinspectors.
Although you have probably already implemented the following tips in your identity theft-deterrence process, they still bear worth repeating:
• Cleaning crew: Absolutely limit access to areas containing your customers’ personal, nonpublic information from cleaning crews. There are documented cases of janitors stealing and selling information obtained after hours from car dealerships.
• Background checks: One case I worked on as an expert witness involved an identity thief who had been caught, prosecuted, and served time. As soon as he got out, he went to work at a car dealership as a porter.
• Drug testing: Many ID theft investigators comment that methamphetamine addicts prefer identity theft to generate the cash to feed their habit. Random drug tests may cull a meth head from your payroll.
• Pay a finder’s fee: Consider establishing a reward system for employees who detect and prevent identity theft from taking place at your business.
• Thumbprints: Implement a process to obtain thumbprints from every customer as a condition of the sale and for their protection. The experts stated during the panel discussion that they have been able to catch a few criminals thanks to thumbprints. Dealers who have implemented this policy report a few customers immediately walking. After further review, however, they believe they prevented a crime.
• NADA title manual: The NADA has a titling manual available for purchase. A section of the manual is devoted to descriptions of driver’s licenses from each state. You should circulate this section to all your sales and F&I staff members.
• Legible copies: Get a good quality photocopy of the driver’s license. Some dealers blow the copy up by 200%.
• Review your grosses: You should conduct a periodic, systematic review of your front- and back-end grosses on a transactional basis. Making a $10,000 front-end gross and another $7,000 in F&I may deserve congrats, but a pink slip might be more appropriate if everyone overlooked the obvious identity theft.
There’s nothing wrong with having aggressive salespeople. Just make sure to put the controls in place to keep the aggressive from becoming greedily stupid.
Good luck and good selling!
Gil Van Over is the executive director of Automotive Compliance Education (ACE) and the founder and president of gvo3 & Associates. His new book, “Automotive Compliance in a Digital World,” will be available at NADA 2018. Email him at [email protected].