Scammers Are Impersonating Nearly Every Illinois State Department In Phishing Schemes, And People Are Falling For It
CHICAGO (CBS) -- You may be getting weird, irritating fake text messages on your phone – and whatever you do, don't click on them.
CBS 2's Tara Molina did some digging and found nearly every state agency in Illinois has scammers impersonating them – using texts, emails, and even phone calls.
The Illinois Secretary of State, Department of Labor, Department of Employment Security, and Department of Transportation - we've tracked the scams that all of those state departments are dealing with right now.
Lines were long Thursday at a Secretary of State's office in Bridgeview as people headed back out to renew their licenses or get new IDs post-pandemic.
Some scammers are taking advantage of just such lines and delays with text messages that might read, "Illinois Department of Transportation Driver License Waiver Validation. Validate your details below."
That text is not really from IDOT, and it is actually an attempt to get personal information.
"Your driver's license number, your Social Security number, your date of birth," said one woman named Chris.
Luckily, Chris didn't give any of that up - since she noticed red flags with the text right away.
One giveaway is mistakes in the grammar or punctuation – which occurred is several examples we saw. You should also make sure to double check that and where the message is from.
But the biggest red flag with that text message about "Illinois Department of Transportation Driver License Waiver Validation?" IDOT has nothing to do with driver's licenses – they are handled by the Secretary of State.
Still, we're told people are falling for it.
"It's really frustrating that there is so little that can be done for this type of thing," said Chris.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office said they've tracked down 218 impostor websites associated with these scams, and, so far, they've been able to shut down 136 of them.
"I keep on getting at least three false texts a day," said Phil Selman.
But there was one scam for which Selman nearly fell, involving a fake website. In his case, it was a fake Department of Employment Security website.
"Everything looked right," Selman said. "It was from customer service at Illinois.gov."
Thankfully, he thought twice before submitting what he had filled out.
He's not alone.
We checked in with every state department in reporting this story and learned they're hearing from hundreds of people dealing with some version of these phishing scams.
The departments told us they will not reach out and ask for your personal information in such a fashion.
So if you get a text or email like the ones described here, ignore and delete – as advised in this notice from police in Buffalo Grove:
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"People's lives could be ruined from this," said Chris.
Illinois departments that were impersonated in the scams issued the following statements:
Illinois Department of Employment Security:
"IDES will not send you a text message as a form of communication. If you receive a text from a number claiming to be the Department, do not click on any link provided and delete the text. No further action is required.
"Receiving a text is not necessarily an indication a claim has been filed in your name. These texts are attempts to obtain personal information so that in the future a claim could be filed in your name with information fraudsters can collect through these types of phishing schemes. Deleting the text is the safest way to ensure you do not click on or activate any link included in the message.
"If you believe a claim has been filed in your name, or if you or your employer have received correspondence in the mail alerting you a claim has been filed in your name, call the Department to report it immediately."
Illinois Department of Transportation:
"We are very aware of the of the ongoing phishing scam and bogus texts and emails. We have been actively warning people on our social media feeds for the last few weeks and put out a press release a few days ago. Here's the link. We've also assisted the Secretary of State's office with helping to spread the word since it appears the majority of the messages are fraudulently representing that office or the functions of a department of motor vehicles, which, as you know, does not exist in Illinois. The Secretary of State's office fills that role."
The Illinois Secretary of State's Office said it is working with the FBI and IRS to address these increasing scams. If anyone opened a text or email link or gave information, the Secretary of State's office is asking they call the Illinois Attorney General's identity theft line (866) 999-5630.
The Federal Trade Commission ahs also put together this guide on recognizing and avoiding phishing scams. If you have clicked on a link on a phishing link and provided some of your information, there are steps to take to report the fraud and to protect yourself and your identity moving forward.
CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.
We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.
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