Michiganders warned of unpaid toll text message scam

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 14, 2024

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — A new text message phishing scam targeting toll road users is circulating across Michigan.

Over the past few weeks, Better Business Bureau Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula President and CEO Melanie Duquesnel said, several Michigan residents began contacting the bureau after receiving fraudulent text messages regarding unpaid tolls.

The scam involves a deceptive text claiming the individual owes money for unpaid tolls, threatening a $50 late fee if the balance is not settled immediately.

Officer Nick Soley of the Bloomfield Township Police Department warned Michiganders never to reply to suspicious texts or emails, and never to click on links or attachments.

“Like all scams, these are typically meant to look real with a scare tactic  — ‘your toll dues are overdue, pay now to avoid big charges’ — and directions to do so via a link in the text. This leads to a phishing scam. Common sense is the best defense. If you haven’t gone through any tolls, you don’t owe any money,” he said.

“While Michigan does have tolls at bridges and tunnels, we don’t even have toll roads so, luckily for those of us in Michigan, simply being told we owe a fee for a toll road fee should be a red flag unless you were recently traveling out of state,” Duquesnel said in a statement.

The text message also includes a fake link deceptively made to look legitimate by using the name of a real toll company.

Those who click the link and input personal and payment details are exposing themselves to scammers, risking financial compromise.

“Scammers craft these messages with links designed to steal consumers’ personal and financial information,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “It’s important for residents to recognize the signs of smishing texts so they aren’t duped out of their hard-earned money.”

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 2,000 complaints in March and April from at least three states relating to collecting unpaid tolls.

Officials believe the scam may be moving from state to state.

Reports from The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker also indicate a rise of the messages, with victims recounting similar experiences.

One consumer shared: “I got a text message from ‘Michigan toll services.’ We have noticed an outstanding balance of $11.69 on your record. To prevent a late fee of $50, please visit this website.”

“I received a text message that stated I owed funds from using a tollway. It was not specific, and since I do not use a tollway, I knew it was a fraud,” another consumer said.

Anyone who receives a similar text message should verify any outstanding balances through official sources, avoid clicking any links, block the number, delete the message and report any scam messages to the Better Business Bureau, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Federal Trade Commission or the Michigan attorney general.

Soley encourages Michiganders to slow down and think.

“Don’t hurry to pay given the scare tactic or threat. Scammers want you to react quickly, without consultation,” he said in an email.

Soley says residents can always check with the company or agency the potential scammer is saying they’re from by using a phone number or website they know is real, not any information from the text.

  He also encourages people to use their phone’s “report junk” option to report any unwanted texts or forward them to 7726 (SPAM) and then delete the message.

“Unwanted messages often lead to scams. Once you’ve checked it out and reported it, delete the text message,” Solely said.

Consumers can report smishing texts by forwarding them to SPAM (7726) and by sending the texts to the Federal Trade Commission. To file a complaint with the attorney general, or get additional information, call (517) 335-7599.