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Watch Out for the Unpaid Toll Text Message Scam

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By Cameron Huddleston, Director of Education, Carefull
June 10, 2024

To best protect our members and give our partners the opportunity to create “hero moments” with members, Carefull publishes and sends out an article immediately after new scams are identified. We constantly monitor the FBI, FTC, BBB, and CFPB for new types of elder fraud as well as use our Scam Check feature, which allows users to report anything they find suspicious, for new scams impacting older adults and their financial caregivers.

Earlier this month we received several reports through Scam Check of suspicious text messages about unpaid toll balances. We learned that the FBI and the FTC had received similar reports. So, our content team sprang into action to deliver the article below, which was sent out to key contacts at our partner financial institutions for distribution to their frontline fraud and remediation teams.

We do this because the power of awareness can reduce the chance of victimization. Knowledge of a specific scam decreases the chance that a person will fall victim by 80%, making this passing of knowledge key to keeping members safe.

If you get a text message notifying you about unpaid toll charges that you owe, ignore it. It’s likely a scam.

Carefull Scam Check has received several reports from people who have received text messages from toll collection services notifying them that they have unpaid balances. The FBI, and Federal Trade Commission also have received reports of this scam and have been issuing warnings.

Here’s what to know about how this unpaid toll charge scam works and what you can do to avoid it.

How the Unpaid Toll Charge Scam Works

According to reports that Carefull, the FTC and FBI have received, this scam begins with a text message that appears to come from a state toll collection agencies or E-ZPass. The message alerts recipients that they have an unpaid balance. To avoid a late fee, they are instructed to click on a link in the text to pay what they owe.

Here’s an example of one of the text messages shared with Carefull’s Scam Check:

“Michigan toll services: We’ve noticed an outstanding balance of $11.69 on your record. To prevent a late fee of $50.00, please visit to settle your invoice.”

According to the FBI, these messages have impersonated toll services from several states. However, the language in the messages has been almost identical and the amounts that are supposedly owed are similar.

The links in these text messages do not go to actual state collection agency websites or the official E-ZPass site. They go to fake sites that aim to steal personal information and debit or credit card information used to make payments.

How to Avoid This Scam

The FBI and FTC recommend taking these steps if you receive a text message about an unpaid toll charge.

  • Don’t click on links in text messages. The aim of this and similar text message scams is to scare you into responding quickly. Don’t rush to respond or click on any links—even if the message appears to come from a legitimate source.

  • Contact the tolling agency directly. If you think there is a chance that you have unpaid charges, look up the phone number online for the tolling agency to find out if you owe money. Do not call any numbers provided in a text message or listed on websites that are referenced in a text message. These could be fake.

  • Report scam text messages. File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at and include the phone number from where the text originated and the website listed within the text. Then use your phone’s “Report Junk” option that should appear at the bottom of the text message to report it as an unwanted message and delete it.

If you have clicked on a link in an unpaid toll charge message and made a payment, contact your financial institution or credit card company to let it know the payment was made as a result of a scam. You might need to cancel the card you used to prevent fraudulent charges.

Freeze your credit reports at all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – if you shared any personal information through a scam text message. This will prevent identity thieves from using your information to open new accounts in your name. Consider usings a service such as Carefull for account, credit and identity monitoring to be alerted to unusual transactions on your account and misuse of your personal information.

Connect with Carefull to learn more.

About Carefull

Carefull protects aging members from elder fraud, exploitation and their own money mistakes while building next-generation relationships for the credit union.