Thursday, November 19, 2009

Phishing scams hitting hard


The Community Driven Credit Union in Pittsfield Township has frozen the bank accounts of 20 to 30 of its customers in recent days after they provided sensitive information to suspected scam artists.

The phishing scam - involving e-mails and text messages - appears to be hitting Washtenaw County hard since last week.

Many people have reported receiving the messages, which warn them their accounts have been frozen. They're directed to call a number and are then prompted to provide bank and debit card information.

The majority of the messages appear to reference the Community Driven Credit Union. Kevin Finneran, president and CEO of the credit union, said even his wife and daughter received the text messages.

The scam also appears to be impacting the Chelsea State Bank. Michigan State Police Sgt. Tony Cuevas said today at least 3 people have reported similar scams involving the Chelsea bank.

One man said he received an automated message that his bank account was frozen, and when he called, he was directed to enter his 16-digit debit card number, Cuevas said.

On Tuesday, the president of the Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union said the credit union has heard from at least 50 customers who received suspicious messages.

Finneran said his credit union has talked to 50 to 60 customers, and 20 to 30 of them provided their banking information by computer or phone to the scam artists. Their accounts were frozen, and new cards are being issued.

Finneran said the bulk of those who received the text messages appear to be Sprint customers. He said the credit union has spoken to the Pittsfield Township Police Department and state Attorney General's office, and also is spreading the word about the scam to help customers avoid being victimized.

"It probably started last Thursday or Friday," Finneran said of the calls. "If people provided information, we're immediately taking steps to secure their accounts. We're also doing everything we can to make people aware."

Barrie Kiser, marketing manager for the credit union, said the e-mail can appear convincing because it has a screen shot of the credit union's home banking system. But the address is wrong, and the information it requests to log in also is different.

Officials at the banks stressed this week that they never gather information from ttheir customers via text or e-mail, so customers should never respond to such messages.

Anyone who received the messages and provided information should immediately contact their bank or credit union and local police department.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group also offers some advice on what to do if you've been scammed and how to report it.

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