In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher.
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Last month, we reported on auto registration scams that involved an official-looking letter and a $199 “voucher” that mimicked a bank check that supposedly could be applied toward vehicle registration fees.
But wait, there’s more!
The rise of online auto registration that came with the pandemic seems to have spawned a number of other scams. The Better Business Bureau reported in 2021 that scammers took advantage of states’ online services by creating phony sites that claim to handle your license renewal or car title transfer. Instead, these cons steal your money and personal information. One victim reported on the BBB.org/ScamTracker that they had pre-paid for a driver’s license renewal online, only to find that when they arrived at the DMV office to complete the transaction, the clerk had no record of the payment. A scam lookalike website got the money instead.
Here are tips for avoiding this type of con:
— Double-check the website URL and that the link is secure; i.e., starts with “https://” and includes a lock icon.
— Be wary of third-party websites, espsecially if they have typos and grammatical errors. Look for a working customer service number and physical address.
— Use a credit card for online purchases. Fraudulent charges then can be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with a debit card or “wallet” type payments.
— Look for a disclaimer, usually buried in small print, that a website claiming to offer driver services is not actually connected with a government agency.
Those scams often are delivered via email but more recently text messaging has been the vehicle (pardon the pun) for registration fraud schemes. Note: some states’ DMVs do send texts, but only to residents who have signed up for these notifications.
The scam texts might try to scare you (saying your license could be suspended because of an overdue fee) or entice you (you’re due a refund on fees you’ve paid). Some take advantage of confusion over the federal government’s upcoming Real ID requirements to trick you into sharing personal data.
AARP reported last year about a New York DMV warning that scammers were sending texts claiming drivers are in line for a $1,500 fuel rebate from the state. If it’s too good to be true …
And remember, don’t pay to access DMV forms or information. State governments provide them for free. Well, with the help of your taxpayer dollars.