Florida is warning motorists about a scam that could cost them big right before the holidays.
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said in a news release that a company is sending emails, pretending to the DHSMV and seeking payment for a fake traffic ticket.
In the emails, drivers are accused of a traffic violation, then told they must pay the fraudulent citation by a certain time or face a daily late fee. There is a link for drivers to submit payment. The DHSMV said that although the payment link appears to be inactive, anyone who believes they may have fallen victim to this scam should refute the charge and contact their bank to take appropriate protective steps.
In an example email provided by the state, the company accuses a driver of making an illegal right turn on red at an intersection in Miami. The email requests payment of $78 within three days, or a $50 late fee will be charged for each three additional days the payment is late.
Motorists should note the following, the state said:
• The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and county Clerks of Court do not send citations via email or require payment of citations via email.
• Traffic ticket numbers always are composed of seven alpha-numeric digits, while the fake citation numbers are six digits.
If you think you may have encountered this scam, the state asks you contact your local Clerk of Court and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles immediately.
“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” the Florida Democrat wrote in a letter sent Friday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
A state agency overseeing driver records took issue with the term “sell,” maintaining it was following laws that govern the release of public records. Access to such records can involve fees provided by law to process and provide the records.
“The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does not sell driver or motor vehicle information,” said executive director Terry L. Rhodes in a statement. “Driver or motor vehicle information is produced as required by the Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act and Florida’s public records laws.”
Nelson’s letter says the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 was enacted to protect Americans’ personal information after the brutal murder of Rebecca Schaeffer, a 21-year old actress killed in 1989 by a fan who tracked her down using her California driver registration records. The act prevents a state from selling someone’s personal information to a private company for marketing purposes without their express consent, Nelson wrote.