RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – As people prepare to resume air travel this holiday season, TSA imposters are trying to steal your money and personal information under the guise of gifting you TSA PreCheck.
Experts say the scammers are very sophisticated in the way they tampered with the legitimate TSA website.
Trying to avoid those long queues for TSA registration can be accomplished if you are approved for TSA preclearance. It’s a legitimate service that costs $ 85 for five years, but you have to go to TSA and request it.
In recent weeks, unsolicited emails have flooded inboxes across the country, claiming to be from the TSA.
“They’re being sent to people and they haven’t actually asked the TSA for the information,” said former FBI agent Crane Hassold, who is the director of Threat Intelligence at Abnormal security.
The email contains a link that takes you to a fancy-looking fake TSA website that is several notches above the usual one-page scams.
“It’s a full-fledged website with 10 to 15 pages all of which have content,” Hassold said. “Sounds legitimate.”
The only way to know that this is not from the TSA is to look at the URL which does not have the real .gov address. Instead, it’s a .com address.
Counterfeiters charge a $ 140 “application fee” and request private information pages.
“When you look at the information collected, date of birth, social security number, passport information, address, all of that can be used for other purposes as well,” Hassold said.
Criminals who exploit the TSA scam can sell this information on the dark web or use it themselves to create false identities that can be used illegally.
Hassold said security experts tracked down the fake TSA website to a group of criminals in Bulgaria.
He said it is very difficult for the federal government to crack down on this scam even though it is masquerading as a federal agency.
“From a law enforcement perspective, the biggest problem with a scam like this is the amount of money lost by a single victim,” Hassold said. “In only one instance did this (the stolen amount) fall short of the level of a prosecutor who can take law enforcement action against them.”
It warns people to carefully consider unsolicited emails and not to trust the links included in those emails.
If in doubt about the veracity of an email, use your browser to go to the website yourself and see what it has to say.
In this case, the TSA website states that there is only one way to register for TSA PreCheck. You have to go to his site and apply there.
The Ministry of Homeland Security also has a link which allows you to request the TSA PreCheck.
The TSA is also warning consumers who request TSA PreCheck for the first time that they cannot pay online. They can only pay in person at a TSA enrollment center
The TSA says that if you fall victim to a bogus website, they won’t refund you the money you lost – that’s their policy.