By now, most Internet-savvy consumers are wise to the spam emails that look like they are from a bank or financial institution, warning that prompt action is needed to avoid losing access to an account.
Usually that "prompt action" is supplying your date of birth, social security number, and all manner of personal information that could be used to steal your identity. When we see these emails, most of us simply ignore or delete them.
So scammers appear to have reverted to an old fashioned way to phish for information. They pick up the phone and call victims. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett is warning his state's residents to be on the look out for these kinds of phishing calls.
"These bogus 'security alerts' typically warn that credit card or bank accounts may have been compromised and ask consumers to respond by 'confirming' or 'verifying' their account numbers," Corbett said. "The sole purpose of these calls is to convince unwary victims to reveal their account numbers and passwords so that thieves can steal money from their bank accounts or make large purchases with their credit cards."
Corbett said identity thieves are always looking for ways to disguise their schemes and reach out to new potential victims. In the latest scam, they use live operators and automated calls disguised as communication from banks, credit card companies or other legitimate businesses.
Corbett noted that the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has been receiving an increasing number of complaints about unwanted "account security" calls and messages all across the state.
He pointed out that legitimate businesses will not call or message consumers asking them to provide their entire account number, password or PIN number -- so any request for that level of detailed personal information should be a clear warning sign of a scam.
"While some businesses may contact consumers to alert them about potential problems with their accounts, they will not ask individuals to divulge all of their account information by phone or email," Corbett said. "If you do receive a message asking for detailed account information, contact your bank or credit card directly -- using the customer service hotline printed on your card or monthly statement -- to report the scam attempt and also to verify that your account is secure."
Corbett said that any consumer who suspects they have accidentally divulged personal information in response to a scam should immediately contact their bank or credit card company to stop any unauthorized withdrawals or charges to their accounts.