Consumer Handbook: As DMVs Move Services Online, Scammers Cash In With Lookalike Sites

Oct 14, 2020

Credit Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, state departments of motor vehicles around the United States have expanded their online offerings, allowing drivers to book appointments or prepay 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’s ScamTracker

Here’s how this 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. 

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. 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. 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. 

To avoid falling victim to fake websites, double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. Be wary of third-party websites; some appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. 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’s no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.