I got an interesting call tonight on my cell phone that I thought I would pass along to everyone…a PHISHING phone scam involving my bank account.  There were several red flags that came up to indicate a scam attempt, and you should use these flags as well as your own good sense to avoid being taken.

blocked-caller-IDMy cell phone rang, and the first red flag came up…BLOCKED phone number.  I occasionally get blocked numbers from people who I know and would like to talk with, so this is not THAT unusual.  So I answered the phone.

Keeping in mind that the caller ID was blocked, I was interested in seeing which of my friends was calling.  The computer-generated voice at the other end immediately started by saying, “Hi. I am from [my bank] and we are distressed to tell you that your debit card has been locked.  To unlock your debit card, press ONE.”

This is Red Flag Number Two: when is the last time that your bank notified you of something regarding your account with a phone call?  Most major banks do business by U.S. Mail – or maybe one of the overnight carriers.  They never call unless they are cold-calling you to sell you additional banking services.  This is weird.

Red Flag Number Three: When I have received a call from my bank, there is always a number displayed.  Why would your bank hide their number?  Also pretty weird.

debit cardRed Flag Number Four: When I answered the phone with my normal, “This is Kevin Duffy.  How can I help you?” the computer voice on the other end started talking as soon as I connected.  Most professional robo-callers have a short wait time so that you can answer the call before the computer voice starts up, giving the illusion that you are talking to a real person.  This was not a top-end system that was being used here.  More weird.

So to find out what was going on, I went ahead and did what it wanted me to do…”Press One.”  The computer voice then instructed me to enter my sixteen-digit number from my debit card.

BINGO!  Hang up the phone.

Here is where your own good sense comes in.  Let’s assume that in fact your debit card was locked, and the bank wanted to help you unlock the card so that there was no interruption in service.  They called YOU, so they Farmers_State_Bank_Building.JPGhave obviously associated the locked card with your phone number and your name.  So why would you need to enter your card number?

If you have worked with financial institutions on the phone, you know that they ask you a bunch of silly questions to make sure that you are really you.  They never ask for your card number.

In this scam, the bad guys want to fool you into giving them your card number and the three-digit number on the back, along with the expiration date.  This is all they need to then go online and start shopping.  With your money.

If your debit card is locked, YOU call the bank number on the card and take care of it.

A House Spouse Tip: Banks do business in person or by mail, NEVER by phone or by email.  NEVER give out your information on the phone or by email unless you are in the process of purchasing – purchasing that YOU initiated.  Use your good sense, and if it seems strange, it is probably wrong.


Have you been the target of a phone or email scam?  Tell us what happened so that we can be informed!

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