Consumer Watchdog: Driving citations via email are bogus

April 4th, 2016 2:45 pm

Consumer Watchdog Christine Young Watchdog Christine Young

A couple of weeks ago I warned you about fake emails claiming to be from the IRS, demanding payment of supposedly overdue taxes.

Now there’s a new email scam to watch out for, and this one purports to be from your local police department, accusing you of speeding and demanding you pay a fine. So far, the speeding-violation scam has hit only two states I know of, and one is Pennsylvania.

Last week three residents of Tredyffrin Township, a Philadelphia suburb, reported getting one of these “tickets” by email. In the subject line were the words, “Notification of excess speed.”

Inside, the email says, “The Infraction Statement contains an image of your license plate and the citation which must be paid in 5 working days.” That statement is accompanied by a link.

What is scary about these messages is they contain accurate driver and trip information – dates, times, street names, speed limits and driving speeds. In other words, the folks who received the emails were actually speeding at the times and places specified.

Police believe hackers are targeting drivers’ mobile phone navigation and traffic apps to obtain actual trip data.

The legitimate information is supposed to trick you into believing the citation is authentic and get you to click on the link, which does not provide a means for making payment. Instead, it installs a malicious code that enables the hackers to access your computer and personal files, track your usage and infect your machine with viruses.

Cyber-scams tend to spread like nasty infections. Besides Pennsylvania, California has also been hit. Last week, the Simi Valley Police Department issued an alert after residents reported receiving similar emails.

So if one of these bogus “e-tickets” shows up in your inbox, don’t fall for it, even if you know you were speeding. As police in Simi Valley and Tredyffrin Township remind us, driving citations are never issued by email. Simply press “delete” and please — don’t press so hard on the gas.

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