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A new type of scam involving text messages and cell phones has surfaced, and police want you to be alert for it.
Istvan Kovacs, community resource officer at the Shelbyville Police Department, said that he first became aware of the scam when he received a text message recently on his cell phone that told him his bank account at a certain bank (not his) was temporarily locked, and to unlock it, he should call a certain phone number.
“I called, and it is an automated line requesting my credit-card number, expiration date and the PIN number,” he said. “There were no other options given in the menu.”
Kovacs said the text message referred to Commonwealth Credit Union and that he had never had an account with that institution. He contacted the bank and told officials what had happened.
“I have been told by bank security personnel that they do not use text messaging to contact clients,” he said.
The phone number that he received on the text message turned out to be a non-published land line in Frankfort, he said.
“The phone numbers are call forwarded out of the country, and there is no way to find the perpetrator,” he said.
He added that if someone (a possible victim) returns the call and gives the information requested on the text message, the thieves will use that information to wipe out that person's bank account.
“They will spend all available funds,” Kovacs said.
“Never give out information solicited by text messages. Thieves can use the names of legitimate banks, but that doesn't mean the bank is involved in it.”
Charlie Mattingly, president of the Better Business Bureau in Louisville, agrees.
“There are legitimate financial institutions who are starting to send customers a text message telling them they can get a balance or transaction information online, but you can be absolutely certain that no bank is ever going to ask you for confidential information by text message or email,:” he said. “Any message you get requesting such information is either a scam or someone trying to commit identity theft and should always be ignored.”
Mattingly said people always should notify their banks as well as the BBB anytime they receive a message falsely claiming to be from a financial institution.
Mattingly added that the BBB recently began to warn consumers of text message scams.
“We started hearing about text messaging scams in early January, so two weeks ago, we put out a warning on our Web site about text messages,” he said. “The main avenue for scams used to be e-mail, but now text messaging is becoming more common.
"Such misuse of text messaging, which are called “pfishing scams” is relatively new, but you can be sure we will see more of this scam, since text messaging is now a major method of communication for many people.”
Mattingly recommends when using online financial services, to go directly to the bank's Web site to login, rather than following a link in an e-mail or using a phone number in a text message.
“Anytime you are asked to enter personal information, such as user names, passwords, PIN numbers, credit card numbers or your bank account number, the Web site should always be secure.”
Mattingly said one way to make sure the site is secure is to look at the browser address.
“It should always begin with https: because the 's' means secure. The http: addresses are used by non-secure Web sites.”
For more information about this and other scams, go to the BBB's Web site at www.bbb.org or call 800-388-2222.
Common scams identified by BBB
• UPS Virus: E-mail about a delivery from UPS. Don't open the attachment; it could destroy your computer.
• Jury Duty Scam: Caller says he/she is a court officer and you failed to report for jury duty, wants personal information.
• Vote Scam: Phone or e-mail asks for personal information to determine voting eligibility.
• FBI and Facebook Virus: An e-mail directs one to a link about an article about FBI and Facebook. When link is clicked, malware is downloaded to computer.
• Millennium Empire: Hundreds of people complaining to BBB that they never have received their merchandise or a refund from this company.
• Fake Lottery: Wants people to wire money to claim winnings.
• Scam artist posing as BBB Reps: They are asking people for personal information.
• BBO (Better Business Online}: This site has absolutely nothing to do with the Better Business Bureau and even uses the BBB logo. Offers to sell a guide about working at home.
• CashKrazy.com: This work-at-home company doesn't pay people for work done at home.
• Advanced Vending: This company has an unsatisfactory record with BBB. People are told to wire 50 percent investment of $4,000 or more up front and the rest when machines are delivered. But machines never arrive, and people are told the company no longer has a locator service in their area.