Road trips can be a lot of fun. I speak from experience as my family's spring breaks include road trips, even if they were to a port to board a cruise.

Flying is certainly a faster way to get there, but we figured road trips would be a good way for the kids to see other parts of the country, rather than just fly over and they had been young enough to enjoy it without getting too stir-crazy on the road.

Since we don't live in Illinois, or another state with toll roads, passing through a pay station was always unfamiliar to us, especially the first few times we encountered them when you'd toss a bunch of change into a bin and be on your way.

However, now they have modern tolling systems allowing you to pay your toll fees online. While that is a lot more convenient, allowing you to keep driving and pay within an ample amount of time, it's also opened the door for scammers to target people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states where toll road payments are unfamiliar.

How The Road Toll Collection Service Scam Works

If you've been on a road trip, or live in a state with toll roads, watch out for this text message phishing scam where scammers attempt to impersonate toll collection services and trick you into paying for fake outstanding tolls.

Here is how the scam plays out:

  • You receive a text message from what appears to be a state tollway collection service, like the Illinois Tollway or the Florida Turnpike. The text message says you owe a road toll fee of around $12, but you need to pay it immediately to avoid a late fee of $50.
  • Of course, the message includes a "convenient" link to pay up and avoid the late fee. It will appear to be a legitimate link provided by the state’s toll service.
  • If you click the link and provide your personal and payment information on the website, scammers could now have all that information and use it to rip you off.

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This scam can be effective when hitting people who aren't used to paying for toll roads and therefore wouldn't think it was unfathomable to miss a payment on their road trip.


How To Avoid Text Message Phishing Scams

Scams such as these can be avoided with a little due diligence on behalf of their targets. The Better Business Bureau recommends taking the following steps:

  • Verify your outstanding toll balance with the legitimate agency. Instead of clicking on the link in the text message, go to your web browser, find the toll service’s actual website, and log in to your account to verify if you have any outstanding toll payments. You could also call the toll service’s customer service line. However, never call the phone number that texted you or any phone numbers included in the text message. Instead, find the toll service’s legitimate phone number on their website.
  • Know the warning signs of a fake text. If you receive an unusual text message, there are several things to look for to help you identify if it’s fake, such as bad grammar or misspelled words. The BBB has more tips online for spotting the red flags of fake text messages.
  • Don’t click on links or download files that are unexpectedly texted to you. It may be hard to identify if a link sent in a text message is safe. Scammers can disguise a URL to appear legitimate when it isn’t.
  • Block the number and delete the message. Do not engage with the scammer if you think you received a fake text message. Simply block the phone number and delete the text message. Refusing to engage and blocking the phone number can help prevent scammers from contacting you again.
  • If you receive a text message impersonating a road toll collection service, report it. You can file a report with BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others about this new scam. In addition, file a report online with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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Now load up on snacks, gas up the car, buckle up, and have a great trip!

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