Many travelers have discovered to their chagrin that it’s not necessary to be pulled over by a police officer to be charged with a traffic or toll violation.
While I don’t believe it’s that common, I have had clients call me asking about receiving traffic tickets, often toll-related, through their rental car companies after the fact. (There’s no way of knowing how many people get such tickets and just pay them.)
Now, a new scam may lead to identity theft or computer viruses.
As MSN money reported last year, ATS (American Traffic Solutions), the company that operates red-light cameras and other automatic ways to catch drivers, is now sharing information with car rental companies so some drivers are getting billed directly for their alleged infractions.
As aggravating as that might be, there’s a scam out that’s worse. Someone — maybe a Nigerian prince — is sending out “Uniform Traffic Ticket” emails allegedly from the “New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.” The emails note you were over the speed limit in a New York town on a certain date. It instructs you to mail the fine payment to a particular address. There is also a link where offenders can click to print out the ticket. It seems official.
I’ve received the email now three times. I haven’t clicked the link, but I did give it a second look, because I happened to be in New York State on the date of the email. Upon closer look, there are typos – the address is “nypolce.com and the timing is wrong. But it wouldn’t have been that hard to try to look at the detailed ticket. And it’s almost certainly a virus, as confirmed on snopes.com.
In addition, the spammers hope to have recipients open the file and send them personal information. According to online research about this scam, it was originally reported in July, but the newest scam emails appear to have October violation dates.
Since the email says it’s from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, travelers are likely to be particularly at risk, because many travelers have been in New York.
In addition, while this particular scam may not catch careful readers, it’s a clever concept. The scammers probably play off the fact that the idea of a traffic ticket gets most people upset and less likely to think clearly. It’s hard to imagine that others haven’t come up with similar ideas. So, the general advice in this post, even in this age of automatic tickets, is be careful.
As noted above, it is certainly possible for anyone who’s rented a car to get a traffic or toll fine by email through the rental car agency. Although even then recipients should be careful. (Can’t imagine that some scammers haven’t thought about impersonating a rental car company.) But if you receive anything that looks like an actual ticket, the best thing probably to do is delete it. A ticket is cheap compared to a major virus, or identity theft.
If there’s any question try to call the billing agency in question, your rental car company, or your credit card company if it comes via them. Do not open any links unless you are certain of its veracity. Alas, travel scams don’t stop when your travel is completed.
Janice Hough is a California-based travel agent a travel blogger and a part-time comedy writer. A frequent flier herself, she’s been doing battle with airlines, hotels, and other travel companies for over three decades. Besides writing for Travelers United, Janice has a humor blog at Leftcoastsportsbabe.com (Warning, the political and sports humor therein does not represent the views of anyone but herself.)