Scammers impersonate E-ZPASS, I-PASS collections in emails

DATCP: Government impersonator scams prevalent
Scammers impersonate E-ZPASS, I-PASS collections in emails

Illinois interstate tolls can cost a pretty penny but a new scam could cost drivers in Wisconsin even more.

For anyone in Wisconsin and travel often, there’s a good chance you have an I-PASS for the Illinois tollways or an E-ZPass for other states. Many pass users check their balances online, and Tuesday night officials learned of a scam that could dupe drivers in Wisconsin.

Barb Christopher’s husband received an email from an E-ZPass collection agency saying the Christophers needed to pay their tolls.

“It’s clever because you go through those toll booths and you don’t know what you have left on your card,” Christopher said. “You have no clue, so it’s clear that it could easily be (true that) you have run out of money and you could buy into this real easily.”

Christopher said her son had recently taken her car to Chicago for his work.

She said the email looked official, using the E-ZPass logo. E-ZPasses can be used in several states, but the Christopher family only has an I-PASS, which is specific to Illinois tollways. That discrepancy didn’t sit right with Christopher. Plus the email was asking for personal information.

“If there is any that comes to you asking for personal information, whether it is by email or phone, I would say there is something to be suspicious about,”  Christopher said.

Barb and her husband knew right away it was scam but the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer and Protection warned against the phishing emails where people pretend to be government officials.

“Our advice: Really be vigilant and be proactive and just realize this kind of scam, this kind of government impersonator, is very prevalent right now and do what you can to protect yourself from it,” Sandy Chalmers, who runs DATCP’s Consumer Protection Division, said.

Christopher knew what to look for in terms of a legitimate company email, but she could see how others may fall victim.

“I don’t use (the I-PASS) that often, so I had to really think about it,” Christopher said.

Officials with the Illinois tollway told News 3 that people have fallen victim to the scam and the agency is investigating what databases the information is coming from.

They want to reiterate that the I-PASS would never email about low balances — that information would come in the regular mail.

Officials reiterated that people should never give out personal information online.