My ID is Speeding in Switzerland

I got a letter in the mail yesterday, apparently from Switzerland. It was all in German, which I don’t understand, except for the word that was obviously “Police”. My first thought was that Interpol somehow found out that I had ripped Run Lola Run, until I got to the last pages which seemed to be photos of a motorcycle from a speed trap camera. I’ve never been to Europe or owned a motorcycle, so this is obviously a case of ID theft.

I have had my ID stolen before to open a cell phone account and to order a computer, but both of those incidents appeared to have been perpetrated locally. Since IDs can be sold over the internet it’s not too surprising that something would turn up overseas.

If I wanted to register my new (or newly stolen) motorcycle in Europe, what is required? Is there a EU-wide DMV? Can I register in Europe with an American address, or would this driver be using plates somehow obtained in the US (I’ll get the photos scanned and posted later today)?

Can my ID be used to open credit accounts in Europe, and would they report to the American agencies? I have credit monitoring, but if my ID is being bandied about Europe, I’m not sure how I would hear about it aside from becoming wanted in the EU.

How should I respond to this one? Since I am innocent, I am hardly fish filet with shame and guilty conscience. Will they try to extradite me if this imposter goes on a moving violation spree?

First thing is check your credit reports from all 3 companies in the US to make sure you are not a US ID theft victim again.

Second is to become educated on ID theft.

If you ID has been stolen and it’s being used outside of the US, you may want to consider contacting the FBI.

Maybe not. But if you decide to visit Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, you could be detained at the Canadian border if a different country has a warrant out for you.

I think the Secret Service is the agency to contact.

If you’re scanning the photographs, perhaps you could also scan the covering letter (with your name/address and other personal information blacked)? Looks *very *curious to me, for the Swiss to go to the lengths of contacting an US resident and at the same time not including an English-language cover letter (also if it’s a matter of a criminal prosecution the normal procedure would be to go through official channels which would be through both countries’ federal governments). It might very well be a much less serious matter, or else an imposture on the part of the letter’s sender.

I’ll .pdf the whole thing when I get home tonight. The charge came from an automated speed trap, but I know there was a person involved because a line from the letter was highlighted. They probably had to go through a big stack of these things and didn’t notice that it was bound for an English speaking country, or didn’t care. I’m sure the postage was quite a bit higher.

I’ll take a copy to the local police department, since it is always a good idea to officially report ID theft. They might turn something up on the plates.

Is there some kind of international DMV cooperation? If a Ferrari with Swedish registration gets caught by a red light camera before being split in half by a telephone pole, will the Malibu PD be able to run the plates without getting on the phone to Stockholm?

A friend showed me a similar type of letter. IIRC, the phone numbers shown for the police department were fakes manned by convincing imposters. We looked up the actual numbers, contacted the actual authorities, and they showed no warrants, tickets, or violations of any sort.

I suspect the scammers were eventually going to ask her for bank statements, credit card statements, and SSN / ID as “proof” that she wasn’t in the area on the dates of the alleged infractions. Then use that to steal her identity and drain her accounts.

err… forgot to summarize…

Your case might not be an ID theft, but instead it may be a ruse to get the info needed to perpetrate ID theft.

99,99% the letter is some kind of scam. There is no EU-wide DMV, each country has its own agency and they do not share their data. I can take my Greek-registered car to Italy, get flashed by every single speed camera, get back to Greece and nobody can do anything about it. If EU countries cannot communicate between themselves it is preposterous to think that they will send a ticket to a US citizen in a US address.

I’ve heard of cases similar to the one JerseyFrank mentions. With all such official-looking missives emenating from far places (or even near) your first step should be to determine the authenticity of the letter before you do anything else.

Maybe a translation will reveal the need to contact a Nigerian lawyer. I can see that the foreign language adds to the curiosity and seeming authenticity. However a potential mark would need to either find some way to translate it enough to follow up, or be able to figure it out without understanding the language.

I wonder how the economics play out? A physical, paper phish takes time and money, and I would think requires significant volume to get any responses that follow through to actual money. But this style might be more successful because it isn’t as well known as a scam like the 419, and most of our suspicion these days is directed at the internet.

The OP should contact the Swiss embassy. They will verify the veracity of the letter.

I scanned the letter, uploaded it to, and pasted sections into Google translator. The gist of it is that the owner of the motorcycle says it was driven by his step-brother Ian Johnson who was visiting from Los Angeles. Someone seems to have made a guess about which Ian Johnson it might be and sent it to me, or maybe all of us. My birthdate doesn’t match the one they are seeking, so it shouldn’t be hard to prove my innocence if they want to press the issue.

Wouldn’t an official Swiss letter be in more than just German? They have several official languages.

Yes, French, German and Italian - but they are also smart enough to use English.

My guess is that this is a scam, postal scams still exist and they aren’t that expensive to run as some countries offer heavy discounts for bulk mail with a foreign destination. For example I used to get a lot of dubious directory forms from Spain (get listed in a trade directory and receive a monster bill - a scam that could be verging on a semi-legal con, depending on the way they play it).

You might try ‘baiting’ the senders of the letter, reply by Email from a new Email address and pretend to be a real moron. If you are new to this you’ll get info and help at - also they might be interested in this new variant.

There isn’t an Europe-wide DMV; requirements vary locally.

For example, in Spain the plates belong to the vehicle and are permanent; in Germany they get changed every year to show you’re up to date in your taxes. You can drive your bike in any country without having it locally registered for a period of time (usually one year).

ticker, I lived in Switzerland for a year and I’ve received letters that were only in German; I’ve also had to deal with forms that had been translated to Spanish (among other languages) but the instructions were only available in German :smack: While the OP should totally ignore the fine (real or fake, it’s not his), don’t assume that the Swiss are efficient. Good at following procedures, yes; good at making procedures, not any more than your average Spaniard.

Oh yes they do. I’ve received an Austrian speeding ticket in the mail for when my German-registered car triggered an automated speed camera.

Well, in that case you were lucky. Perhaps Greece and Italy don’t have such an information-sharing agreement, but other pairs of countries evidently do.

No. I can’t get any information on plates out of Canada, forget about Europe.

I am 100% sure you are correct.

I think this one is genuine. I googled the name listed as “clerk” and turned up an interview with him about his role running the logistics for some charity event. It mentioned that he was a constable for the Basel police department. The letter included an email address for him, and the domain took me to the police department website -

I’m waiting to see if I get a reply to the email I sent him. I wonder if he speaks English, or if he’ll paste it into Google too.

How did you know it was clerk when the thing was in German?