You are here

FTC sues car dealerships for fake recall notices

Share this page

A recall notice for your car or truck signals a serious safety defect that you should try to get fixed quickly. According to an FTC lawsuit, a group of auto dealerships counted on people doing just that when they sent fake mailers marked “URGENT RECALL NOTICE” to more than 21,000 vehicle owners, most of whom did not have recalls.

In the words of one defendant, the mailers were designed to “drive some traffic” to the dealerships’ service departments. According to the FTC, many people who got the notices called the dealerships tExample of a recall notice that the Passport dealerships sent to vehicle owners.o find out their vehicle’s actual recall status. Many who called were told they had to bring their vehicles to the service departments to learn their vehicle’s status and, the FTC said, a lot of them did.

The dealerships operate in Virginia and Maryland as Passport Toyota, Passport Nissan of Alexandria, and Passport Nissan of Marlow Heights. A settlement with the FTC prohibits the dealerships, a California marketing company operating as, and the companies’ principals from making any future misrepresentations about any vehicle’s recall status or other facts about its safety.

Here are steps to take if you receive a vehicle recall notice:

  • If your vehicle has a recall, get it fixed. Call your local dealer to schedule a free repair.
  • To check if your vehicle has a current safety recall, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website,, and enter your vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • If you have questions about the recall, call the vehicle manufacturer at its toll-free number.
  • Sign up at to be notified by email if your vehicle is affected by a future recall.

If you think you got a fake recall notice, report it to the FTC. Let NHTSA know, too, by reporting it at or 1-888-327-4236.

To learn more, visit NHTSA’s website,, and check out our article on auto repairs.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


This was clearly a criminal action so I am appalled the agency let them off with a slap on the wrist.

The principals need jail time or heavy fines at the minimum to sort out their concept of morality. This appears to have been a very easy case to win as it would be hard for the defendants to claim they didn't do it deliberately.

So who can tell me if the dealer really did fix the Directionals if they were malfunctioning and didn't charge any extra For doing so And didn't find any extra things to charge for that weren't bad in the beginning

I'm grateful that the FTC and other agencies are able to stop things like this. I also like to see the companies and the people behind them subject to fines, though much of the time there seems to be no money left to pay the fines and they are only subject to not do the same thing again.

What I don't understand is why they are not subject to incarceration. Especially considering the amounts of money that consumers and businesses, usually small ones, have lost.

I know if I broke the law and scammed people or business, I'm going to be prosecuted. I've seen it happen to in my community, though on a smaller scale.

great work, thanks FTC

So they were caught and were told not to do this again. Seems rather light from a deterrent/punishment perspective.

I agree. 'Light' is an understatement.

These were all years ago. I have wonder why, a few of my cars that after I had fixed them talked to friends. They tell me heck that was on recall long ago. Soft camshafts on a 1980 Chevy Camaro V6 wore lobe off of cam shaft that I had bought used, but the other I bought brand new and never got a notice to repair 2003 Dodge Dakota of leaking windshield on passenger side, which destroyed the heater motor.

Great work FTC!!! This is not the first abuse of the recall process to drive consumer traffic to a dealer. NHTSA and car manufacturers have enough difficulty contacting and motivating consumers to address open recalls. This type of nonsense just makes it more confusing and mistrustful to the public. Again, great work and great instructions as to the right steps to take.

That is sad. They are praying on people emotions to make money. They should not be in the business of serving the Public. They should be out of business, period. End of story.

I concur. They should be out of business to teach them a lesson and to show all other perpetrators that this is not allowed and will not be tolerated. If they receive only a "slap on the wrist" they will try it again in another form.

I thought something in this article seemed inaccurate:
"A recall notice for your car or truck signals a serious safety defect that you should try to get fixed quickly".
I have had to return to my ford dealer after receiving a manufactures recall called a "Field" recall. It also stated that it was not a safety issue and was completely covered by Ford. Can you clarify this topic better to me / the public & avoid this exact confusion / misinformation?

 For information about recalls, please visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website,

That's criminal,using fear to try to make money, shame on you

How shamefull, they should be prosecuted.

Leave a Comment