Watch Your Driver’s License: Cyberscammers Exploit COVID-19

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COVID-19 coronavirus digital art by Prachatai via Flickr.

The pandemic has been a fertile opportunity for cyberscammers.

In the latest example,  scammers are exploiting online information from expired driver’s licenses, reports Stateline.

The “phishing” schemes take advantage of the fact that many states issued emergency declarations allowing driver’s licenses to remain valid past expiration dates, reports Stateline . With those extensions ending, drivers now need to make sure their licenses are renewed, but “scammers are exploiting that shift,” Stateline says.

“Driver’s license phishing scams designed to steal people’s identities have been popping up across the U.S., according to state motor vehicle agencies,” says the report.

States where the scams have been reported include Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont and Wyoming.

Cybercrooks send out texts or emails falsely warning that the target’s license needs to be updated, is missing information or is expiring. If the person clicks the link, it sometimes opens a Google Forms spreadsheet requesting personal information such as a Social Security number.

 David Druker, a spokesperson for the Illinois secretary of state’s office, which issues driver’s licenses, called the latest scam “despicable.”

“It’s just outrageous that when the country is going through the COVID crisis, people are taking the time and energy to steal information from others,” he told Stateline.

In Illinois, Druker said, thousands of people have received texts and emails in which scammers pose as the secretary of state or as officials from the state department of transportation. Druker said he is not aware whether anyone has fallen for the ploys.

After learning about the phishing and smishing, Illinois officials alerted the FBI and IRS, which have worked with Google to take down the sham webpages. Smishing is the fraudulent practice of sending text messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.

So far, the agencies have identified 1,035 sham sites and Google has shut down nearly 900 of them, Druker said.

Some scammers are even coming out from behind their computers.

According to an alert published earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, criminals are using door-to-door visits to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams, as well as using telemarketing calls, text messages and social media platforms.

During the in-person visit, fraudsters are offering information on COVID-19 tests, HHS grants, and Medicare prescription cards in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information.

What may have motivated the criminals to go door to door is that genuine health workers are knocking on doors to talk about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine in various parts of the country.

“Do not provide personal, medical or financial details to anyone in exchange for vaccine information, and obtain vaccinations from trusted providers,” the Office of Inspector General urges.

Citizens are also warned not to share a photo of a vaccine card on social media.

“Posting content that includes your date of birth, health care details or other personally identifiable information can be used to steal your identity,” said the Inspector General’s office.

Nancy Bilyeau is deputy editor of TCR

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