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Highway toll scams targeting thousands of summer drivers

Messages claim you owe money for an unpaid highway toll, but they are a scam.
Cars pull up to a California toll booth.
Posted at 8:38 AM, Jun 24, 2024

Now there’s another reason for you to think before you click: Scammers are sending text messages designed to trick you into paying outstanding tolls that you don’t owe.

And if you recently were on vacation, which describes many families right now, you could easily fall for it.

Message right after returning from vacation

Holly Palello is one of the millions of road warriors traveling this summer.

"We drove 3,000 miles on one trip," she said, while stopping at an Interstate 75 rest area.

She said when she and her husband returned home from Florida, they were surprised by a toll-related message they received, telling her to pay money.

"It just said something about a SunPass from Florida,” she said.

She had no idea if it was legitimate or not.

“I just don’t know; we’ll have to call and find out," she said.

Thousands of drivers receiving messages

Since early March, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center has received more than 2,000 complaints about fake texts from senders claiming to be a toll collection service.

The toll program out of Florida, SunPass, has also warned customers about the phishing scam, saying in an email: “Please note that SunPass does not ask customers via text to make a payment or take immediate action on their account.”

But this is not specific to Florida; messages may reference states you've never been to, according to the Better Business Bureau’s Melanie McGovern.

“I don't think I was in the state of Michigan," she said. "Why would I owe a toll there? And then you click on the link and then your phone is infected with malware.”

She says the best thing you can do is to close out the text and put down your phone.

“Maybe go over to a computer, look at the state or the regional toll agency's website to see if there are phishing scams going on or if you do owe a toll, how you can pay,” she said.

McGovern says then block the number and delete the message.

Palello says she’ll do some digging to find out whether the email she received is legit since she actually was on the Florida Turnpike recently.

“We paid our tolls as we went through, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” she said.

So check it carefully, so you don’t waste your money.


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