Fake Traffic Tickets Via Email

There’s a scam showing up in New York in which people are receiving fake traffic tickets via email. The messages contain attachments that, if opened, install some pretty nasty malware on victims’ computers.

Here’s why you should never fall for this type of attack:

Go outside and look at your car. Look at your license plate (you do have a license plate, right?). Look at the rest of your car. Unless you’ve got a small business and you’ve plastered little vinyl letters all over the car, your email address is not on display. It’s also not on your vehicle registration or your drivers license.

There is no way for a police officer or a traffic camera to look at your car and determine what your email address is.

Here’s the reason: email is not an “official” communication channel. Many (if not most) people have multiple email addresses. I could go online right now and register ten new ones inside of fifteen minutes if I wanted to. In fact…

…all done. Now, if they wanted to email me a traffic ticket, which one should they use? Keep in mind that, of the ten, I’ll only be checking three of them regularly and I won’t be making any of them public.

(Okay, you caught me. I didn’t actually register ten new addresses just now. I’m illustrating a point here.)

Email addresses are just too ethereal to be used for official communications. Your mailing address is offical—somewhere, there exists offical paperwork that says, “This is the structure to which I regularly return to rest my weary bones. This is the place where I keep my stuff while I go out and get more stuff. You can find me here most of the time.”

Of course, if your mailing address is a P.O. Box, you don’t actually live in there (unless you’re very weird). However, there is still a reasonable expectation that, “Yes, I will regularly open this little metal door to see what’s inside.”

Email addresses just change too rapidly for government use. If they’re going to mail you a speeding ticket, it’s going to show up at the mailing address on your vehicle registration.