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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Beware of Phishing Scams: An Abney Associates Tech Blog

For the second week in a row, local bank customers have been being targeted by “phishing” scams designed to separate them from the cash in their accounts.

Phishing is a term used to describe various scams that use automated phone calls, texts or email messages, sent by criminals, to trick you into divulging personal information. Thieves use this information to access your bank account, steal your identity or take over your computer.

These types of cyber scams are on the rise across the country, according to the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center. They also are getting more sophisticated.

The recent scam being perpetuated in this area involves automated telephone calls to bank customers who are told their bank debit cards have been deactivated. The phone calls sound legitimate and use the bank’s name in a prerecorded message. The calls seek customer debit information to reactivate the cards. Some calls requested the 16-digit bank card number while others requested personal identification numbers (PIN) or Social Security numbers.

Variations of this phone scam have been reported at a number of local banks over the past two weeks. Officials say hundreds of fraudulent calls were made and several people who divulged account information were victims of the scam.

Meanwhile, bank officials say they were overwhelmed with calls from customers wanting to know if the phone calls are legitimate. One bank representative described the situation as chaotic.

The best defense to this illegal activity is simply not to respond. The same goes for a suspicious text or email. If you receive one of these bogus telephone calls, hang up immediately.

Remember, community banks never make these types of calls asking for confidential card numbers, PIN or account numbers.

In fact, most financial institutions go out of their way to inform customers that they will never ask for personal information via phone or email.

Giving out your account or card information jeopardizes your account and could lead to you becoming the victim of identity theft as well. Those who feel they may have provided confidential information to the scammers should call their bank immediately. They can help monitor your account and prevent further fraud.

Federal investigators say cyber-criminals often strike late in the day or on a Friday in hopes that a sense of urgency prevails. Unfortunately, much of this crime originates overseas and is difficult to track. The FBI is investigating the phishing schemes in this area but that doesn’t mean it will stop.

Simple phishing scams are easy to spot. But the more sophisticated ones require vigilance by consumers. Businesses and even school districts are now being targeted in elaborate phishing schemes. Law enforcement officials warn that the problem is likely to get worse.

The best protection to avoid being a victim in a phishing scam is to never divulge any confidential bank information to anyone but a bank representative you know in person.

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