(BBB) – To help slow the spread of COVID-19, State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) around the United States, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Canada, have expanded their online offerings, allowing drivers to book appointments or pre-pay for services.
Unfortunately, scammers are using this opportunity to trick drivers with lookalike websites that steal money and personal information, according to new reports filed by consumers on BBB.org/ScamTracker.
How the Scam Works
You need to change your car’s title, get a Real ID, or perform another service that you would normally do at your local motor vehicles office. Instead, you visit what you think is the motor vehicles website to learn about their new COVID-19 procedures. Your state may now allow you to complete the transaction online, or you may need to schedule an in-person appointment through the motor vehicle website.
But before you enter any personal or payment information, double-check the site’s URL to make sure it’s the real deal. Scammers are taking advantage of the new online services by creating phony sites that claim to handle your license renewal or car title transfer. However, these cons really just steal your money and personal information, putting you at risk of identity theft.
For example, one victim thought they had pre-paid for a driver’s license renewal online, according to a BBB.org/ScamTracker report. But when they arrived at the DMV office to complete the transaction, the clerk had no record of the payment. Turns out, the victim paid a scam lookalike website instead.
How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Fake Website
- Double-check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double-check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
- Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork, too.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.
To report a scam, go to the BBB ScamTracker app. To find businesses you can trust, go to BBB.org.