State officials from New York to California are warning consumers that criminals are seeking their personal data under the guise of helping them obtain a REAL ID, a government-issued driver's license or identification card that eventually will be required to board domestic flights or enter certain federal facilities.
Due to the pandemic, the deadline for a REAL ID compliant license has been pushed to May 3, 2023. The cutoff had been Oct. 1, 2021.
The postponement helps consumers, to be sure, but gives criminals a longer time frame to use a ruse to grab your data.
In Wyoming, the state Department of Transportation issued an alert on Facebook in May about these so-called phishing scams. Phishing is a technique identity thieves use to obtain sensitive data later used to open new financial accounts, invade consumers’ existing accounts, or infect a computer device with malicious software. “A multistate phishing scam is targeting driver license holders regarding their licenses being REAL ID compliant,” the alert said. Their texts often direct consumers to a sham third-party website that asks for personal information.
In Illinois, other versions of the scam have emerged. The latest one — which slammed consumers in late May — was purportedly from the state Department of Motor Vehicles and directed people to visit a sham website to validate details for a “driver license waiver,” which a state official said does not even exist. Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, got that bogus text at 5:59 p.m. Friday as the Memorial Day weekend kicked off.
'The tip-off to the rip-off'
"Nobody's gonna text, email or call you out of the blue and ask you for personal and confidential information such your Social Security number, or driver's license number,” Bernas says. “And that should be the tip-off to the rip-off.”
Another telltale sign: Illinois has a Department of Driver Services and a Department of Vehicle Services, but not a Department of Motor Vehicles. Be wary of such errors as well as poor spelling or grammar, threats, and a web page address that does not match a legitimate site. “If the message does not feel right, chances are it is not,” New York state officials caution.
Another scam in Land of Lincoln
Another version of the scam in Illinois led to a warning early this year saying the name of its Department of Employment Security was being used in texts urging recipients to “click on a link to update their driver's license or state ID to comport with upcoming federal REAL ID requirements."
"If you receive one of these text messages, don't respond — delete it,” says Beth Kaufman, Chicago press secretary for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, whose office oversees driver's licenses and motor vehicle registrations.
Kaufman says consumers may be asked questions about personal data only when they visit Driver Services facilities but “you're never going to be asked for that information through a text or email.” More tips: If you have a question about a suspicious communication supposedly from the state, visit a legitimate website, such as the one for the Illinois secretary of state, and report these scams to the Illinois Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Hotline.