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Shutterstock/mr.water
Shutterstock/mr.water

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is cautioning drivers about an e-mail “phishing” campaign launched by scammers posing as the agency and collecting people’s personal information.

According to the DMV, the scam involves a notice to e-mail users stating that they must pay a ticket within 48 hours or their licenses will be revoked, all under the guise that the alert is coming from the department.

“The Department of Motor Vehicles does not send emails urging motorists to pay traffic tickets within 48 hours or lose your license,” said Terri Egan, DMV deputy executive commissioner. “It is unfortunate that people use our agency’s name to target innocent consumers. We urge New Yorkers to always remain cautious about opening email attachments or following links, even if they appear to come from legitimate agencies.”

New York State Chief Information Officer Robert Samson agreed.

“With the rise in the use of the Internet and mobile devices to conduct everyday business, there is also an increase in the frequency of email scams and phishing incidents,” he said. “The Office of Information Technology Services urges New Yorkers to always treat emails containing links or attachments with caution. Phishing emails can be difficult to identify; however, being aware of the threat and being vigilant in examining emails can reduce the risk that you will fall prey to such an attack.”

According to officials, the scam email reads:

“Dear Driver:

We are writing to inform you that the state police department has notified us that you have several outstanding traffic violations. If you do not make restitution for these infractions within 48 hours, we will be forced to revoke your driver’s license.
  • To make payment arrangements online, click here.
  • To refute these tickets, click here.
Sincerely,
The NY DMV”

“At no time do we send the type of email described in this hoax,” Egan said. “While DMV does include links in many of the emails we send, the links always lead to a page on a state-affiliated website.”

According to the agency, a similar hoax occurred in 2011 when people received e-mails purporting to be traffic tickets from the DMV. That hoax included a zip file that, when opened, planted a virus on the users’ systems.

Those who believe themselves to be a target of this ongoing scam are urged not to forward their questionable e-mails to the agency or law enforcement, but rather to alert the appropriate agencies as well as friends and family, so that they too do not fall victim to scammers. Suspected scams can be reported to the Division of Consumer Protection at spam@uce.gov, and to the institution or company targeted in the e-mail.

In the meantime, e-mail users are advised to use caution and to keep an eye out for telltale signs of phishing, such as poor spelling or grammar, the use of threats and the URL not matching that of the so-called agency’s legitimate site, among others.

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