Bogus license-renewal texts hitting Jacksonville area hard | #phishing | #scams

Scam artists are working overtime in the Jacksonville area, targeting people by using text messages claiming to be from a state government agency. 

Dozens of people in west-central Illinois reported receiving messages this weekend claiming to be from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office or the Illinois Department of Transportation. The messages urged recipients to click on a link to validate their driver’s license information. In some instances, they claim that the recipient’s license will be suspended unless they respond. 

Such efforts are known as phishing, or smishing, scams. The intent is to steal private information. Clicking on the link provided can open recipients up to identity theft or to malicious programs being loaded onto their phones. 

Because phone numbers or the sender’s identification can be spoofed, it can appear legitimate. 

It isn’t. 

“People should know that government agencies will not request sensitive personal information via unsolicited text messages,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said. “If you receive such a message — even if the phone number appears to be local — do not respond.” 

If uncertain about whether a request is legitimate, contact the agency by using information from its official website. 

Dave Druker, a representative of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, said hundreds of people have reached out and there probably are thousands who have received one of the texts. 

“My office is working with the Illinois attorney general’s office to protect Illinoisans from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes,” Secretary of State Jesse White said. “In addition, we have notified the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI.” 

Both White and Raoul recommend deleting the texts immediately. 

Raoul said people can lessen the potential to fall victim to identity theft by: 

• Not sharing your phone number unless you are sharing it with a person or organization you know well. 

• Using caution when providing a cellphone number or other information in response to pop-up advertisements and free trial offers. 

• Not acting immediately. Smishing scams try to create a false sense of urgency by implying that an immediate response is required, or that there is a limited time in which to respond. Take time to verify the sender’s identity and ask yourself why the sender is asking for your information. 

• Keeping software up to date, including on cellphones, to help avoid viruses placed by scammers. 

Smishing texts can be reported to a cellphone carrier by copying the original text and forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM). Scam texts also can be reported to the Federal Communications Commission’s website or by calling 888-225-5322. 

Illinoisans who have questions about protecting themselves against identity theft can call the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 866-999-5630 to speak to a specially trained advocate. 

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