Fake websites and email/text messages exploit ignorance about new Real ID cards: Internet Scambusters #950
Real ID cards will soon become essential identification for air travelers and certain US-restricted access facilities. They'll also replace driver's licenses and DMV identity cards.
But because many people don't understand how they work and whether they need them, scammers have jumped on board to exploit their ignorance.
In this week's issue, we'll explain what the cards are, how they work, who needs them, and how to spot a real ID card scam.
Let's get started…
Real ID Card Deadline Sparks Scam Surge
The launch of a new personal identification system in the United States, popularly known as Real ID, is being targeted by scammers to steal from victims.
It's been a long time coming, but the final deadline for introduction is fast approaching, with many citizens either unaware or uncertain of requirements. This enables scammers to hoodwink them into paying more than they need or even to exploit their ignorance for identity theft.
Real IDs, which are really enhanced-security versions of existing driver's licenses or DMV identification cards, were mandated in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. The new cards began to be introduced many years ago, as existing licenses expired. They require more security checks than their predecessors.
Some states set their own deadlines for introduction, but the nationwide deadline for full implementation is October 1 this year (after being postponed from October 2020).
This could lead to a scramble in the coming months by people who don't already have the replacements. And those who don't know enough about them are sitting targets for scammers.
Real ID: The Facts
But don't panic if you're one of them. First, work your way through these 7 key facts:
- First, you can tell if you already have a Real ID card by checking the top-right of the front of the card. If it's a Real ID, it will have a star in that corner.
- Real ID cards are only required for air travel (domestic or international) and access to nuclear power plants and certain federal government facilities. You don't need one for other activities such as claiming benefits or registering to vote, though they will fulfill the same identification role as "old" driver's licenses, such as when you present a check.
- If you're flying, an old-style card will still be acceptable (if it hasn't expired) but you will need an additional form of identification, such as a passport, military ID, or permanent resident card.
- However, when your card expires, it will be replaced by the Real ID version. You can't opt out.
- Cards are issued via individual states' DMV offices. Some states -- Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and Washington -- issue more enhanced versions, which are also valid for travel to Mexico, Canada, and some Caribbean countries.
- Real ID cards are not required for children under age 18.
- Cards can't be replaced online or via a phone call. You can provide certain documentation via the Internet but still have to visit your local DMV office to complete your application.
Real ID: The Scams
Several state Attorneys General offices have issued warnings of a surge in scams during the past few weeks.
These include fake websites. As lines at local DMV centers continue to lengthen, more people are trying to get their cards online. Most bogus sites look very similar to genuine ones. But, as previously stated, you can't get your Real ID online, although you can submit certain documentation that could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
The fake sites don't say that, and they certainly want copies of your documents, which can be used for identity theft. People who are tricked into applying online may also be charged fees for work they could do themselves, such as making appointments.
Others quite simply take your money and run.
Since original documents are required for a Real ID and if you don't already have your new card, you should start the application process at your DMV website to establish their requirements.
Make sure, though, that you're on your state's official DMV website. You can find a full list of these, with an interactive map, on the state of Nevada's website.
Scammers are also using SMS text messages and emails to target potential victims. Messages are sent out at random, telling recipients they need to replace or update their licenses and then directing them to fake websites.
The messages sometimes warn that drivers will be breaking the law if they don't comply with the request. They might also imply that the new Real ID is a legal requirement for any form of travel, even driving to your local supermarket.
It's also possible -- though there have been no reported cases so far -- that the scammers will pose as DMV officials or even law enforcement, telling victims they're being fined for not having the new ID.
The aim is always to trick people into divulging personal information, make a payment or, in some recently-reported cases, upload malware onto the victim's computer.
It's simple to avoid this scam. Only provide online documentation when you know you're on the correct DMV site, using the Nevada link provided above. Better yet, just go to your DMV and take the documents there.
The only fee you have to pay is the standard amount for a new license charged by your state.
If you want to know more or apply for a Real ID card, visit the website of your state DMV or the Department of Homeland Security.
Alert of the Week
Did you get your Coronavirus shot yet? Or is it upcoming?
Either way, don't be tempted to brag about it with an online photo of your vaccination card. Just don't!
The card not only has your name and birth date but also details of when and where you got your shot.
Scammers have already used these posts to forge vaccination cards, steal identity information, or contact the vaccine recipient, posing as a health official, telling them they have to pay.