BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If the DMV is texting you about updating your personal information, you should take a closer look – because it is a scam.
The DMV and state department are warning consumers not to take the bait or it could cost you a lot more than money.
It could lead to identity theft, which could cost you money and ruin your credit. Scammers are getting more sophisticated, and their text messages look so real, it is scary.
This is not just happening in New York, these fraudsters seem to be everywhere.
Sandy Barnes’ dad got a message on his cell phone, posing as the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sandy recognized it as a fake right away because it actually came from a phone.
“He said to me, ‘Sandy, I got this message. I am ready to call the police on it, I don’t think it is a real thing,” Barnes recalled. “Not like a 5-digit number from an automated computer system that it would have been sent from. I thought that was strange, so then of course I googled the number and it is a random phone number in California.”
If Sandy’s dad had clicked on the link in that text message, it would have likely taken him to an online form that looks alarmingly realistic with an authentic-looking state letterhead, asking for crucial personal information such as date of birth and social security number.
The scam is known as “Phishing”, which can lead to identity theft, and financial doom.
DMV officials see these phishing scams come out of the woodwork every few months.
“Once the scammer has that information, that is all they need to steal your identity, to access your accounts, and really do a lot of damage,” said Lisa Koumjian of the New York State DMV.
We talked to Koumjian back in February, and she made the point that your personal information is more valuable than money because a scammer can use it to open accounts in your name and then sell it to other scammers.
Criminals have been using the REAL ID law, which was to go into effect in October as bait to steal people’s identification, but it has been delayed for another two years.
Barnes just wants people to be vigilant.
“I unfortunately was a victim of identity theft last year. Somebody actually called up my own bank and pretended to be me,” she said. “They luckily caught it.”
The state division of consumer protection and the DMV caution consumers the only time they would send you a text would be as a reminder, that you cannot respond to.
They have also issued a joint consumer alert, warning of text message phishing scams.