Will the DMV Actually Text You?
When Henry T. Casey received a text message from the DMV informing him that his driver’s license no longer complied with new federal rules, he quickly clicked on the link. And when the site he was taken to asked him to confirm his driver’s license and Social Security numbers, he almost entered them without thinking twice [*].
But then Casey noticed something. The website he was on, which claimed to be for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, was using a “.in” domain — the URL for sites in India.
Text message phishing scams claiming to be from the DMV are running rampant. And Americans have already received more than 66 billion spam texts in 2022 [*].
And while Casey was able to avoid any serious damage, you might not be so lucky.
So how do you identify and protect yourself from DMV text scams? In this guide, we’ll share the latest DMV text scams, how to spot them, and how to keep yourself safe from scammers.
What is the DMV Text Scam? How Does it Work?
A DMV text scam is when fraudsters send fake SMS text messages (known as “smishing”) in order to get you to click on a link, give up sensitive information, or even send them money.
Scammers know that government agencies like the DMV, IRS, or FBI are trusted entities, and you’re more likely to comply with what they ask in their texts.
Here’s how the DMV text scam typically works:
You receive a text message claiming to be from the DMV alerting you of an urgent matter. For example, the text may claim that your driver’s license is going to expire or that you are owed money due to overpayment.
Depending on the scam, the text will pressure you to either:
- Click on a link that takes you to a phishing site designed to steal your information or download malware that gives the scammers access to your device.
- Call the scammers so they can continue the scam over the phone (called “vishing”).
- Reply with sensitive information to “verify” your identity, such as your driver’s license or Social Security number (SSN).
If you give the scammers sensitive personal information or they infect your device with malware, they can even steal your identity or commit financial fraud.
These scammers prey on our confusion around how, when, and if the DMV will text you. But how do you know if you’ve received a fake DMV text or the real deal?
📚 Related: How To Identify a Fake Text Message Scam [With Examples] →
Will The DMV Text You? Here’s What To Know
The DMV does use text messages to interact with citizens, but only in very specific circumstances.
Here’s the number one thing you need to know to avoid DMV text message scams:
- It’s a scam if: You receive an unsolicited text claiming to be from the DMV. The DMV will not send you unsolicited texts, emails, or phone calls — especially ones that threaten you with legal action or offer you “free” money. The DMV will never ask for personal information such as your driver’s license number, Social Security number, or date of birth via an unsolicited text or email.
- It could be a real text if: You initiated contact with the DMV. In this case, the DMV may contact you to follow up on your request — for example, to confirm an appointment or send you a cancellation notice.
The 5 Latest DMV Text Scams to Watch Out For
- Your driver’s license doesn’t comply with federal rules
- The DMV is holding a refund for you (“free money” scam)
- Fake DMV appointment reminder texts
- Texts asking you to validate your COVID-19 status
- Fraudulent “fuel rebate” text messages
Fraudsters are always finding new ways to pretend to be the DMV and scam you. These are the latest DMV scam texts you should be on the lookout for.
1. Your driver’s license doesn’t comply with federal rules
This scam text uses social engineering to create a sense of urgency by claiming that you need to update your information to keep your driver’s license active.
The goal for the scammers is to get you to click the link and enter your personal information on a phishing website. If you do, scammers can use your information for identity theft or further scams.
How to spot a driver’s license update scam text:
- There are strange grammar, spelling, or capitalization errors. Scam texts often don’t read properly. In this case, the capitalization of “Driver License Holder” and “Visit” are warning signs that this isn’t a legitimate text.
- The message includes suspicious links. The link in the text uses a hidden URL and isn’t pointing toward the official DMV website at “dmv.[your state].gov” (for example, dmv.ca.gov for the California Department of Motor Vehicles website).
2. The DMV is holding a refund for you (“free money” scam)
Everyone would love to get free money these days. This DMV scam text claims that you’re owed a refund due to overpayment and that you’ll miss out on it if you don’t confirm your payment details as soon as possible.
But this is a classic example of a phishing scam. Not only is there no money waiting for you, but if you click on the link, it will take you to a phishing site where scammers can collect your personal banking information.
How to spot a DMV “refund” scam text:
- The message claims you have money waiting for you. If you believe you are owed money from the DMV, contact them directly using the phone number or email listed on their official website.
- The text comes from a phone number other than the one listed on your state’s official DMV website. Remember: the DMV will never ask for your personal data via text, email, or phone. So, delete the text message and block the number.
📚 Related: Someone Bought a Car in My Name! What Should I Do? →
3. Fake DMV appointment reminder texts
Another common scam technique is to create confusion. In this scam text, the fraudsters send what looks like a legitimate DMV appointment reminder.
If, by chance, you have booked a DMV appointment, you could be tempted to click the link. But even if you haven’t booked an appointment, you might still click on the link to get more info or cancel the appointment.
But either action will put you at risk of a phishing scam, malware, or worse.
How to spot a fake DMV appointment scam text:
- You didn’t book an appointment with the DMV. This is a dead giveaway. If you receive a text about an appointment you didn’t book, it’s a scam. Delete the message and don’t click on the link.
- If you click on the link, you’re asked for personal information (such as your driver’s license information, name, and mailing address). The website might also use a different design than the official DMV website.
📌 Don’t blindly trust search results. Scammers build fake websites that will sometimes show up in legitimate Google search results (like when you’re searching for your local DMV office). Always visit your local DMV website directly instead of clicking links in texts or emails.
4. Texts asking you to validate your COVID-19 status
The coronavirus pandemic has given scammers even more ways to target their victims. In this scam, the fraudsters claim that the DMV has partnered with the CDC to require citizens to “validate” their COVID-19 status.
Whether this means vaccination or health status, we’re not sure — but it’s enough to get many people to click.
How to spot a COVID-19 DMV scam text:
- The message is unclear or vague. The fact that this text vaguely refers to a “COVID-19 status” is a clear sign that it’s a scam. If you’re not sure what the text is asking, ignore it.
- You’re asked to submit sensitive information, such as health care and contact information. Scammers use your health care data to commit medical identity theft and steal your benefits. Don’t give it to anyone over text, email, or phone unless you’re absolutely sure who you’re talking to. The CDC will never text you to ask for sensitive information.
5. Fraudulent “fuel rebate” text messages
The DMV issued a recent scam alert for a trending text scam where fraudsters claim you’re owed a “fuel rebate” for your vehicle. Due to the high price of gas, many people would love to get some money back. But this is a scam.
Once again, scammers want you to click on a fraudulent link and enter your personal or banking information.
How to spot a fake “fuel rebate” DMV scam text:
- The offer is too good to be true. $1500 in fuel rebates per vehicle? As much as we’d all love this to be the case, it’s a classic example of a scam.
- Clear signs of a phishing scam. The strange spelling of “NewYorkDMV” and suspicious link are major red flags that this isn’t a legitimate text message.
📚 Related: How to Tell If Someone Is Scamming You Online →
Did You Click on a Link in a DMV Text Scam? Do This
If you clicked on a link in a DMV scam text, there are two possible threats you should be aware of: downloading malware onto your device or entering information on a phishing site.
Here’s what to do in either case:
What to do if you think your device has been infected with malware:
- Disconnect your device from its network and the internet to stop scammers from spying on you.
- Download and run antivirus software to isolate and remove the malware.
- Uninstall any unfamiliar apps on your phone or mobile device.
- Change your passwords and security questions and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.
What to do if you gave personal information to a DMV scammer:
- Freeze your credit to stop scammers from taking out loans or opening new accounts in your name.
- Contact your bank’s fraud department and tell them what happened.
- Change all your online passwords and security questions (especially your email and bank account).
- File an official report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
- Consider signing up for identity theft protection with credit monitoring. With Aura, you get powerful antivirus protection for all your devices as well as identity theft protection, credit monitoring, and more.
How to tell if you’re on a fake DMV phishing site:
- It asks you to enter personal information. Never provide personal information (SSN, name, address, etc.) on a website you visited via the link in a text message. Instead, always go directly to the official DMV website.
- It’s not using an official DMV website URL. The official DMV website is in the format of dmv.[state name].gov — for example, https://dmv.ca.gov for California or https://dmv.nv.gov for Nevada.
- The design is different from the real DMV site. Check the favicon (the small logo beside the website’s name) to see if it matches the real site. For example, a scam website pretending to be the California DMV uses a “CA” favicon, while the official site uses a wheel icon.
- Don’t blindly trust “secure” sites. Many pieces of advice say you should check to see if a site is secure (meaning that it uses HTTPS instead of HTTP and has a valid SSL certificate). But scammers have started using these, too.
How to Avoid DMV Text Scams
- Ignore all texts claiming to be from the DMV — unless you requested they contact you over text message. Even if you’re waiting on a text from the DMV, exercise extreme caution with any incoming message.
- Look out for telltale signs of smishing such as the use of threats, poor spelling, and a URL that isn’t from DMV dot [state name] dot gov.
- Never click on links in text messages. If you want to check on the status of an appointment or get more information, visit the DMV website directly.
- Do not send sensitive information via text messages. The DMV will never ask for personal information through text or email.
- If you click on a link, make sure it takes you to an official DMV website. Check the URL to ensure that you’re on the legitimate site.
📚 Related: How To Stop Spam Texts (on Android and iPhone) →
How to Report DMV Scams
The DMV recommends deleting fraudulent text messages asking for personal information. But before you delete them, forward any scam messages to to email@example.com.
You can also report spam texts by forwarding them to 7726 on your phone, or sending them to the FTC and your state consumer agency.
The Bottom Line: Shut Out DMV Text Scammers
Scammers will stop at nothing to get your personal information or hard-earned money — even impersonating the DMV. But by staying up to date with the latest scams and knowing how to spot them, you can stay one step ahead.
And for added protection, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution.
Aura keeps your devices safe from hackers with powerful antivirus software and monitors your online accounts, banking information, and sensitive data for signs of fraud. And if the worst should happen, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.