Banking Scam Comes to Tiny Town

April 11, 2009

Pajamadeen's Junkyard Dog Persona Emerges at the Thought of a Banking Scam

Pajamadeen was lost in thought, working on a client’s WordPress blog when the phone rang. A recorded female voice said that, due to recent unusual activity, my bank account at the Tiny Town Bank (The scammers had the actual name of the bank) had been disabled. Whaaaaaat? That’s how I pay the bills! The junkyard dog in me was instantly alert. The recorded voice instructed me to “press 1” for further information.

 

Telephone Used in Attempted Bank Fraud and Identity Theft Scam

No. Definitely no. My radar went off. Why would I want to press buttons on the phone when I wasn’t really sure that the bank had actually called? Why not just call the bank? Vaguely wishing that I had some sort of tranquilizer available, I called the bank. A stressed-sounding bank employee who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent said that nothing was wrong with my bank account. She said the bank had been bombarded with phone calls for the last 45 minutes with similar questions. Additionally, the lobby of the bank was filling up with people who weren’t customers but who had received the same recorded message. We’re not sure why these people rushed to the bank. Wishful thinking about an unknown bank account with money in it? With only four banks in the county, the odds were high that the scammers would reach someone who did have an account at this bank (name omitted so as not to call additional attention to it on the part of scammers).

A Radio Can Come in Handy

I suggested that she call the local radio station to get the word out pronto and that a quick call to the weekly newspaper (yes, I said weekly) would get a story in before the publication deadline the following day. According to the local newspaper, the sheriff’s department said that the scammer’s phone number appeared to be registered to a California pharmacy, although the pharmacy said that their phone number had been hacked and used to make hundreds of fraudulent calls. Similar identity theft scams have also recently surfaced in Indiana and New England. If you get a call like this, hang up. Don’t press 1. Don’t do anything except hang up.

For those unfortunates who press 1, any number of things can happen, none of them good. It’s like opening a virtual Pandora’s box. Here are some of the exciting possibilities:

  • Your funds can, of course, be withdrawn.
  • Fake checks can be printed and passed, using your banking information.
  • Credit cards can be applied for, in your name. As a corollary, your credit can be damaged.
  • As was the case with a Florida acquaintance, your phone number can be hijacked. The Florida acquaintance received a phone bill that was hundreds of pages long and the bill was over $67,000.
  • Using your banking information and especially with the addition of shiny new credit cards in your name, scammers can open eBay and PayPal accounts — to sell stolen merchandise or merchandise that doesn’t even exist, to unsuspecting buyers.

If this sounds like too much drama, just hang up the phone. The bank doesn’t need to confirm your account information on the phone. They already have your account information.

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