BEWARE OF TEXT SCAMS
What follows is the true story of how fraudsters nearly scammed someone out of their money and how easy it can be to fall victim to their scams. The identities of those involved have been changed to protect the innocent.
Christine and her family have just spent a wonderful afternoon out and about. The weather was perfect, her kids are exhausted, and her stomach is full. She’s ready to spend some time relaxing on the couch with her husband, Mark, and maybe take a nice 4:00pm nap herself.
Her phone lights up with a text. Christine unlocks her phone and reads the message sent by an unknown number.
“FreeMsg: Verify card activity. Card 1111 $415.20 @TARGET Reply Y if recognized, or Reply N to STOP AND YOU SHOULD RECIEVE A CALL FROM AGENT .”
Christine reads through the text in a panic and immediately texts N and lets her husband know that someone has stolen her debit card information. She logs into her financial institution account and moves her money from her checking account into her savings account just to be safe.
After a short amount of time her phone rings. She asks her husband to double check the number with her financial institution’s website, and they are a match. Christine feels more at ease, but her husband, who has had experience working in the financial services industry, is suspicious. He warns her not to give the agent any personal information and if anything feels weird to hang up immediately and contact the financial institution herself. Their house doesn’t have great phone signal, so Christine decides to take the call out on her back deck.
Upon answering the phone, the man on the other line makes quick introductions and recaps what has happened; someone in Atlanta, Georgia has stolen her debit card information and attempted to make a large purchase at Target. Christine immediately feels uneasy as it sounds like the man has a filter over his voice, but the concern quickly leaves her mind as the man continues talking and reassuring her that he will help deactivate her card and get her a new one.
The man reads off her address, email, and phone number and asks her to confirm them, which she does. He says the next step they must take is to validate her account information and prove that it is her account. He enters her email into her online banking and clicks ‘Forgot Password’ and asks her to read back the code that has been sent to her phone. Christine again feels uneasy, but wants to get the situation resolved, so she gives him the code.
Meanwhile, Mark is inside wondering what is taking so long on the call and decides to go out and see how Christine is doing. She is on hold when Mark comes out, and she tells him that she has a weird feeling about everything, explaining what has taken place thus far. Mark tells her that no financial institution will ever ask her to do that.
The man returns and Christine puts him on speaker so Mark can hear. The man tells her that they are almost done finalizing everything and will just need her debit card PIN number to complete the closure. Mark and Christine look at each other, and Mark tells her not to give him that information. Christine tells the man she doesn’t feel comfortable providing that information. The man responds in an exasperated tone, feigning confusion as to why she would feel uncomfortable doing that. He tells her he must speak with his supervisor on what else they can do and puts her back on hold.
Concerned, Christine decides to check her bank account. Upon logging in she sees that her money has been transferred from her savings account back into her checking account. She looks to Mark in a panic, and he confirms her fears: she is being scammed. The man pops back on the phone and begins talking, but Mark cuts him off and says he wants to know why they have moved money from his wife’s savings into her checking. The call immediately ends as the man hangs up the phone.
Christine came very close to losing every dollar she had, and while you may think this could never happen to you the facts are these fraudsters are good at what they do and are able to scam smart people out of their money every day. In her panic to resolve her debit card issue, Christine overlooked some telltale signs that what was going on wasn’t on the up and up, such as:
- Grammatical errors in the original text
- An agent from her financial institution calling after banking hours
- The agent calling her and not the other way around
- The agent needing to access her online banking account through the forgot password option
- The agent asking for her debit card PIN number
Remember, your financial institution will NEVER ask you for this kind of personal information. Christine noted how she didn’t feel right about what was happening, but she continued talking on the phone. Always trust your gut, if something doesn’t feel right HANG UP and call your financial institution directly. It is certainly a stressful situation when you think your debit card information has been stolen, but it is always important to stop, take a breath, and evaluate everything that is going on.