Jul 29, 2014

Film Doc Exposing Auto Sales Fraud Screens in Silver Spring

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition presents a film revealing malpractices and kickbacks by car dealers.

Film Doc Exposing Auto Sales Fraud Screens in Silver Spring

By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov

The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) in cooperation with the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (MCOCP) will have a special screening of a new documentary in Silver Spring next Wednesday.

MCRC is a Baltimore-based statewide independent consumer advocacy group, protecting consumers from various kinds of financial fraud and financial predators. MCOCP is tasked with the enforcement of consumer protection laws “that prohibit unfair and deceptive business acts to ensure a fair marketplace for consumers and businesses.”

The documentary, titled “Driven To Defraud,” will feature powerful stories by consumers who fell victim to so-called yo-yo scams as well as a number of interviews with consumer attorneys speaking about the specifics and incidence of the abuse across the state.

Yo-yo scams involve car buyers unknowingly entering into agreements with car sellers, who trick the buyers into signing loan documents that later allow the dealers to request the buyers pay an interest rate or extra money to be able to keep their car.

“We focused on auto fraud because it’s one of the top complaints at the office of the attorney general every year,” said Marceline White, executive director for MCRC.

According to White, one of the reasons MCRC wants to show the film is that many people do not even realize they have been victimized by car dealers until they see or hear the information in this film.

Mike Morin, a consumer attorney featured in the documentary, said that residents of Maryland had “a far better chance of being scammed” than residents elsewhere.

Also, White said the state is ranked 17th in having existing loopholes in state legislation that enable dealers and financing companies to charge extra on some car sales.

Film director, John Spillane – who earlier worked with Megaphone Project to produce another documentary “Stealing Trust”, which was broadcast by the Maryland Public Television and watched by more than 20,000 Maryland households – said he was unfamiliar with how widespread auto fraud was before he started to work on “Driven To Defraud”.

“What I thought I knew about buying a car just wasn't true. I thought that almost all the rip-offs in car sales were perpetrated by disreputable dealers that most people probably haven't heard of. I also assumed that only poor folks were the ones getting preyed on by these predatory dealers,” Spillane said.

According to Franz Schneiderman, communications director for MCRC, “Driven To Defraud” is partly about the work the coalition has done over the course of two years on auto sales fraud.

The documentary is also an important consumer education piece. The screening will be followed by a discussion with MCRC leaders about what consumers and policy makers can do to stop auto fraud and give consumers a chance to ask Jim Parks, MCOCP auto expert and a certified master automotive technician, their car repair questions.

The screening of the film – which premiered on Maryland Public Television on April 17 – will take place on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Fenton Room of the Silver Spring Civic Center at 1 Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring, MD. A 90-second preview of the documentary is available by this link.

The event is open to public free-of-charge.

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