'It's a scam': Thousands of drivers targeted by text, email

  • This phony email claiming a driver's license is suspended is a scam, the Illinois secretary of state's office says.

    This phony email claiming a driver's license is suspended is a scam, the Illinois secretary of state's office says. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • If you get a message by text or email saying your driver's license is suspended, delete it. Thousands of Illinois drivers are being targeted by con artists, authorities say.

    If you get a message by text or email saying your driver's license is suspended, delete it. Thousands of Illinois drivers are being targeted by con artists, authorities say. Daily Herald File Photo

  • If you get a message by text or email saying your driver's license is suspended, delete it. Thousands of Illinois drivers are being targeted by con artists, authorities say.

    If you get a message by text or email saying your driver's license is suspended, delete it. Thousands of Illinois drivers are being targeted by con artists, authorities say. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 7/6/2021 3:13 PM

My driver's license is temporarily suspended? How can that be?

Guess I better click on the helpful link offering to update records in this official email from Secretary of State Jesse White with a patriotic eagle logo.

 

This nearly happened last week, but the skeptical voice in my head prevailed -- thankfully.

"It's a scam," warned secretary of state spokesman Dave Druker. "We don't seek information of that nature in emails or texts."

Instead, the agency communicates important information by mail, he stressed.

But myriad Illinoisans are being targeted, some successfully, by crafty con artists purporting to represent the secretary of state's office or Illinois Department of Transportation in emails and texts.

Typically, the messages indicate there's problem with a license, or missing documentation, and dangle a link.

Delete it, don't click on it, authorities warn,

"We are not yet sure if this particular scam is ID-theft related or seeking money, but we would think it's more likely ID-theft related, although it could be a combo of both," a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said.

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The scale of the scheme is vast and it's expanding, officials said.

"Hundreds of people have contacted us, which reflects just a percentage of the general public. We're probably looking at thousands who've received them," Druker said.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said, "we are very aware of the ongoing phishing scam and bogus texts and emails. As the reports come in, we report them to the respective online platforms (Microsoft, Google and others)."

The email I received was topped with a banner replicating the branding on the secretary of state's website and bureaucratic wording that could fool someone in a hurry. "You're receiving this message due to errors encountered in our verification process of Online DMV Records," it stated.

Closer scrutiny shows errors and a suspicious signature -- the Illinois Department of Information, which doesn't exist. Prior to the email came a similar text on June 22 falsely claiming "DMV contact information seems to be missing or incorrect. Please update now," with another link.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, secretary of state investigators have found 104 impostor websites and taken down 76 of them, Druker said.

Raoul's office said "we're not sure who is behind this particular scam. Unfortunately, with spoofing and technology, it is extremely cheap to send these texts under multiple levels of secrecy. The people behind these texts are often engaged in criminal behavior, and often are not even in our jurisdiction and are overseas."

The FBI and IRS have reached out to secretary of state officials regarding the crimes, Druker said.

Have you received a suspicious text or email about your driver's license? Let us know at mpyke@dailyherald.com.

You should know

The Illinois attorney's general's office advises: don't share your phone number unless it's with a person or organization you know well; don't be fooled by language indicating you must act immediately -- take your time to verify who's contacting you; ensure your software is up to date on computers and cellphones to help ward off viruses.

For assistance with identity theft and credit monitoring, call the attorney general's hotline at (866) 999-5630. The FBI also offers tips on avoiding phishing scams at fbi.gov/scams-and-safety. To report a suspicious text, go to the FCC's Consumer Help Center website or call (888) 225-5322.

Gridlock alert

Expect lane closures and angst driving on Route 83/Busse Road between Golf and Higgins roads with a resurfacing project expected to be completed this summer.

Your voice

Is it easier to get to Bears games at Soldier Field or Arlington Park? Readers were split.

"As Bears season ticket holder since 1973, the game day commute from Wheaton to Chicago is BRUTAL," Jim Lentz wrote. "Please put me in for Arlington Park."

But Peter Vandemotter of Mundelein countered, "I don't go to many Bears games. But since I live on the North Shore, Soldier Field is better for me. There is no good way to go west but plenty going south."

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