Debit card scam nets number of victims

Three rounds of robo call scams have taken their toll on Mid-Missouri, as a “significant number” of people have fallen victim to the calls asking people for their debit card information.

In the wake of the scams, authorities and bank officials hope people start realizing they need to take responsibility for protecting their financial information.

Have you been scammed?

If you gave out personal information or you think your card may have been compromised, call the number on the back of the card immediately. If you notice charges on your account that you didn’t make, visit your local branch to file a report.

The calls, claiming to come from Central Bank, are targeting debit card holders, claiming their debit card has been frozen and requests callers enter their debit card number and PIN to “reactivate” the frozen card.

“I don’t want people to feel like Jefferson City is being attacked,” said Central Bank Senior Vice President Dan Westhues. “There are a lot of other places getting these. When calls like this happen, you might want to think — you wouldn’t allow someone in your home if they said they were a police officer unless they showed you a badge.”

Westhues said he’s talked to other banks, and this robo call scam has hit at least three other banks in Ohio, Wisconsin and South Carolina.

“They hit an entire area code and ask for debit card info,” he said. “These banks are in small towns, and are not big banks.”

Westhues said they do have the FBI’s attention on this, since the agency contacted the bank on Tuesday.

“One reason they’re involved is because we’ve had three rounds of calls and it’s been disruptive to the community,” he said. “The other reason is that some people responded to these and, when that happens, we’ll see transactions almost instantaneously.

“So as soon as we see them, we try to shut them down — but some we can’t get.”

Authorities said Central Bank’s system has not been compromised nor have they released any customer information. But, there have been customers of other banks suffering losses due to people responding to these calls.

Westhues said these recent scams have originated outside of the United States.

“They are jumping from country to country,” he said. “We don’t know where the mastermind is. Once they know we’re on to them, they move to different types of transactions.

“The card number and PIN is what they need and, when they get that, it looks like an authorized transaction.

“Eastern Europe is where many of these start. Unfortunately a significant amount of customers responded to these calls.”

Westhues said the FBI’s Cyber Fraud Unit out of Kansas City is working on these cases, doing things such as tracing phone calls.

“These are smart guys,” he said. “If these guys are caught, we don’t always know about it.

“They’ll stop once the money dries up, and that only happens when people stop giving information out.”

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