Nationwide alert: SMS phishing attacks target toll road customers

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2 Nationwide Alert SMS phishing attacks target road toll customers


The FBI has issued a critical warning about a pervasive scam sweeping across the country.

Americans are being targeted by a sophisticated series of SMS phishing — or “smishing” — attacks that bait them with fictitious unpaid road toll charges.

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Toll road scam text (FBI)

A surge of fraudulent activity

The smishing scheme has been active since last month, duping thousands of people, as reported by victims to federal authorities. 

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has documented a significant influx of over 2,000 complaints detailing deceptive texts that impersonate road toll services from various states.

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TURNPIke phishing scam 2

Man texting on his phone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Mechanism of the road toll scam

Investigations reveal that these messages are uniform in their deception, falsely asserting that the recipient is delinquent on road toll payments. These communications aim to manipulate individuals into clicking on links that are ingeniously designed to mimic legitimate state toll service websites, complete with fluctuating phone numbers to elude detection.

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TURNPike phishing scam 3

Woman texting on her phone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Regional responses to the threat

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has been at the forefront of the afflicted services, proactively advising its customers to avoid interacting with these fraudulent messages. Similarly, the Pennsylvania State Police have expressed their concern, highlighting that the scam texts redirect to counterfeit websites designed to steal personal data.

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Pennsylvania toll road scam text (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Expanding the watch

Regional services are not the only ones affected. E-ZPass customers who use the toll service across various parts of the United States have been under threat since the onset of these attacks. While this detail is not directly mentioned in the FBI’s public service announcement, secondary sources tracking the issue have confirmed it. 

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Guidance if you receive a toll scam text message

The FBI has recommended several preventive measures in light of the ongoing phishing attacks.

1. Report the phishing attempt at www.ic3.gov with the scammer’s contact details and the website URL from the message.

2. Verify your toll account through the official service website.

3. Reach out to the official customer service for the toll service.

4. Erase the fraudulent text message from your device.

5. Use good antivirus protection on all devices to reduce risks. The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

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If you click one of these toll scam links

For individuals who have engaged in these phishing attempts, it is crucial to take immediate action to secure personal and financial information. The FBI stresses the importance of monitoring for unfamiliar charges and disputing them promptly to mitigate any potential financial harm.

Kurt’s key takeaways

As the threat landscape evolves, staying informed about these scams is paramount. By following the FBI’s advisories and maintaining a high level of skepticism toward unsolicited texts claiming to be from toll services, you can safeguard against these invasive phishing tactics. It’s really important that we all work together to spot and call out scams. By doing this, we’re joining forces to protect people from cybercriminals who try to trick them.

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What role should mobile carriers and tech companies play in combating smishing scams, and how can they improve their current measures? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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