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
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
“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.