Most scams go through cycles. The emerge as something new, claim a lot of victims, then go dormant for a while. When they resume, they normally target a whole new group of victims.
Such is the case in Iowa, where Attorney General Tom Miller is warning his state's residents that identity thieves are sending text-messages to Central Iowa cell-phone users again.
The message pretends to be from a financial institution, asks potential victims to call a number, and asks victims to key in their credit card or ATM number.
"It's a phishing scam purely designed to get you to give up your ATM or credit card number," warned Miller. "They will run up charges on your card. Don't fall for it. Don't reply at all."
Miller said hundreds of Central Iowans apparently are receiving the scam text message. He says his office received a couple dozen calls from consumers about the text message late last week.
Bankers Trust's ten branches each has received about a dozen calls about the text message, according to Jodi Paardekooper, Vice President and Security Officer. Most recipients have recognized the messages as a scam but Miller said a few have fallen for it. He warns that similar messages could appear on consumers' cell phones anywhere.
The cell-phone text message says, in somewhat fractured English, that the recipients ATM card has been deactivated and provides a phone number to call. Those who do will here the following message.
"Hello. Thank you for calling our 24-hour security department. To reactivate your card, please press 1. To leave, please press 2." Consumers who pressed 1 were told: "Please enter your 16-digit card number."
The 506 area code is in New Brunswick, Canada — a country that is home to a huge number of scams. Miller says his office has alerted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police "Phone Busters" anti-scam operation.
Miller advised consumers:
• Do not give your personal information to someone who contacts you by text message, phone call, or email. This likely is a "phishing" scam to steal your financial information.
• If you gave up your information already, contact your financial institution at once. You likely will have to close your account immediately.
Miller said text-message "phishing" scams are a new variation on phishing scams in general. For years, scammers have tried to trick people using phony e-mails, asking them to click to web sites that "spoofed" authentic web sites for banks and credit card companies, eBay and major retailers, even the IRS. Text message scams mostly appeared early this year.