Phishing scam hits local banks

Published 3:20 am Saturday, August 30, 2014

An intense round of phishing scams struck local bank customers on Friday, prompting warnings for extra caution.

The reports started early Friday, as Troy Bank & Trust reported an influx of calls from customers saying they had received fraudulent telephone calls or text messages telling them their debit cards had been blocked. The customers were then asked to press 1 and enter their debit card information to unlock the card.

Lt. Bryan Weed of the Troy Police Department said officers had been notified of the scam, which seemed to be one of several ongoing phishing scams.

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By mid-day, the scam had reached both Regions Bank and First National Bank customers, as well.

“We saw some of this last Friday and Saturday, with some of our customers receiving calls saying their debit cards had been locked,” said John Ramage, president of First National Bank. “Today it picked up again pretty heavily. We actually got several calls into the bank itself (from the scammers).”

Troy Bank and Trust officials worked to quickly inform customers the calls were fraudulent. “Be assured that Troy Bank & Trust would never ask a customer for their debit card PIN. Customers should never give anyone their debit card number by phone or e-mail unless they (the customer) has initiated the call with a legitimate merchant”, said Amy Johnson McManigle, manager of the TB&T Electronic Banking Department.

Weed said scams seeking financial information seem to be increasing in frequency and sophistication. Earlier this week, Southeast Alabama Electric Cooperative reported a scam in which customers were contacted by scammers impersonating SAEC employees and seeking immediate payment of past-due bills.

“It seems as if there’s a different one ever week,” he said. “They keep trying different ways to get to people. We even had one (scam) call into Captain Barron in our office, telling him he had been awarded an education grant … and all he had to do to claim it was provide a credit card or bank account information.”

Ramage said keeping customers informed of the dangers and helping educate them is important. “All you can do is try to get out in front of it and alert your customers because no bank is ever going to ask you for this stuff.”

Law enforcement and banking personnel both reiterated that customers who receive suspicious calls should never provide financial information over the phone.

Instead, they should hang up immediately and contact either the financial institute or the police.

“Our debit cards are monitored for fraud 24/7, and customers may get called to verify debit card activity, but customers will never be asked to enter or to give us their account numbers or PIN numbers,” said McManigle. “If you receive one of these fraudulent calls, simply hang up the phone and/or delete the text or e-mail.” TB&T provides a Lost or Stolen Card line at 1-800-500-1044.