By Nov. 1, every U.S. auto dealership must adopt a formal program to prevent and respond to efforts to buy vehicles by customers using false identities.
Some dealers who are complying with the federal mandate say they suspect many other dealerships aren't aware of the deadline or won't meet it.
"It's gonna be a huge surprise come November 1," says Tommy Brasher, a Chevrolet and Buick dealer in Weimar, Texas. "I guess the jails will be full of us."
Joking aside, Brasher says he is completing the required plan to fight identity theft. So is John Jomehri, general manager of Metro Honda-Acura in suburban Los Angeles. But Jomehri warns, "I think you are going to have (dealers) who don't care about the rules and regulations."
That attitude could prove costly. The Federal Trade Commission, which is enforcing the "Red Flags Rules," can fine a dealership as much as $2,500 for selling a car or truck to a buyer who uses a false identity. Each subsequent violation carries a fine of as much as $11,000.
The Red Flags Rules — named after the symbol of a warning of possible trouble — are a sequel to the Safeguards Rule, issued by the FTC in 1999. The older regulation aims to prevent the theft of customers' credit data from businesses such as dealerships.