Sunday, May 19, 2024

FBI Alerts Public to Rising Wave of Text-Based Phishing Scams Involving Road Tolls

The FBI has issued a warning about an escalating series of SMS phishing attacks that are misleading Americans with fraudulent claims about unpaid road tolls. Starting from last month, these sophisticated scams have reportedly impacted thousands, baiting individuals with demands for payment of toll fees that are, in fact, nonexistent.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) disclosed that it has registered more than 2,000 complaints since early March 2024. Victims report receiving smishing texts, purportedly from road toll authorities spanning at least three different states, according to a statement released today by the agency.

This scam, although not yet nationwide, appears to be gradually spreading from one state to another, based on the pattern of complaints received by the IC3. The deceptive texts uniformly claim that the recipient has outstanding toll charges and urge them to click on a provided link.

Each fraudulent message contains a link designed to mimic legitimate state toll system websites, with phone numbers that vary between the messages to avoid detection. The FBI warns that these links lead to counterfeit websites intended to harvest personal and financial information.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has specifically been mentioned as a target in these scams. The toll service has responded by advising customers to ignore these phishing attempts. “Customers should avoid clicking on any links in such texts and should immediately delete them,” a spokesperson advised on Monday.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania State Police have expressed concerns over the increasing reports of these phishing texts in their jurisdiction, emphasizing the risk of information theft if the links are clicked.

While today’s FBI announcement did not specifically mention the E-ZPass system, which is widely used across several U.S. states, industry reports from sources like BleepingComputer indicate that E-ZPass users have also been targeted by similar scams since the onset of March.

To combat this threat, the FBI urges anyone who receives a phishing text to report it at, including the scammer’s phone number and the website URL from the text. Recipients should also verify their accounts through official toll service websites and contact customer service directly for confirmation. It is critical to delete any suspicious texts immediately and secure personal data and financial accounts promptly if any links have been inadvertently clicked.

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