Scam Watch


The pitch: “Order a valid International Driver’s License that can never be suspended or revoked!”

The scam: There’s a legitimate International Driver’s Permit that allows U.S. motorists to drive in more than 100 foreign countries. In fact, it’s even required of a U.S. driver going more than 300 miles into Mexico or more than 50 miles into Canada. But spam e-mail offers for an international license are fraudulent.

The real deal: Only two organizations are authorized to issue legitimate International Driver’s Permits -- the AAA (known locally as the Automobile Club of Southern California) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (better known as the National Automobile Club).


The permit, which costs $15 and is valid for a year, is a translation of your U.S. license into nine languages. It’s available to anyone over 18 who has had a license for at least six months, and you don’t have to be a member of either issuing organization to get one. The permit is not a license -- drivers in foreign countries are advised to carry their international permit and U.S. license together.

The fake: The scam permits can cost more than $100 apiece. Often they’re pitched as a substitution or replacement for a U.S. license on the basis that the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic of 1949 authorized driving permits.

But as the U.S. State Department makes clear on its website, even the legitimate, U.N.-sanctioned permits “are not valid in an individual’s country of residence.” A driver showing a scam permit to a police officer when stopped for a traffic violation could get into a world of trouble.

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-- David Colker