Scammers love to take advantage of people in emotional and stressful situations — such as travelers in fear of having to cancel trips because of long wait times to renew their driver's license at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). According to the Better Business Bureau, one victim thought they had pre-paid for a driver's license renewal online. But when they arrived at the DMV office to complete the transaction, the clerk had no record of the payment. The victim had unknowingly paid a scam look-alike website instead.
Stay Alert – Watch Out for DMV Scams
DMV scams seek to lure motorists to phony versions of government websites on the pretext of helping them with tasks such as license renewal or title transfer. These scams may start with a text message or email pretending to be from your state's DMV, saying you're at risk of having your license suspended over an overdue fee, or you're due a refund on fees you've already paid, or you have to enter personal information to meet the federal government's looming Real ID requirement for air travel.
Some criminal operations skip the texts and emails and go straight to the bogus website. They register URLs that contain state names and terms like "license," "registration" or "dmv" and rely on search engines to serve up the sites to consumers looking online for driver information.
Here's what you should do:
Remember, never click on links in an unsolicited text message or email, even if it claims to be from the DMV or another government agency.
- Scrutinize any DMV text message for signs that it may not be authentic, such as misspellings or unusual grammar.
- Know your state motor vehicle office's correct name. Crooks often use the generic "DMV" in scam messages, even in states with different agency names, such as Massachusetts' Registry of Motor Vehicles or Illinois' Department of Driver Services.
- Confirm that a supposed DMV email or website is genuine before responding, clicking a link or entering information. Look for a .gov suffix in the address, which every state motor vehicle agency uses except for Wyoming's.
- Look for a disclaimer — sometimes hidden in small print at the bottom of a page — that a website claiming to offer driver services is not actually connected with a government agency.
- Pay fees with a credit card, which offers the most consumer protection. If a charge turns out to be fraudulent, you can contact your card issuer and dispute it.
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