New phone scam claims it's Allegheny Ludlum credit union

Chuck Biedka
| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 11:36 a.m.

The Allegheny Ludlum-Brackenridge Federal Credit union is not calling members to warn them that their accounts have been compromised.

But some scammers are.

At least 40 local residents, many of whom aren't even credit union members, have reported the fake calls to authorities. The calls seem to have been placed between 10 and 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“You first think, ‘Is there something wrong?' ” said Ruth Seita of Harrison.

In seconds, the recorded voice on the other end of the line gave her an answer.

Seita's account was “compromised” at the Allegheny Ludlum-Brackenridge Federal Credit Union.

Seita, a retired administrator for the University of Pittsburgh medical school, had to smile.

“I don't have an account there. I've never had an account there, and my husband had a jewelry store in Tarentum. He didn't work at the mill,” the Natrona Heights woman said.

When Seita met for breakfast with four friends Wednesday, she learned they also received the unsolicited calls.The friends, all retired, were among an unknown number of credit union members, employees and non-members in Harrison and Tarentum to receive the recorded messages.

The robocalls instructed people to fix the problem by hitting 1 and then giving personal identification information as prompted.It was all a scam, said Allegheny Ludlum-Brackenridge FCU manager Linda Daum.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Financial Crimes Task Force and the Federal Communications Commission call this type of scam “spoofing.”

Like other scams, criminals seek to separate honest people from their money.Crooks send out thousands of messages. If even one person takes the bait, they can use the personal information to get cash from the victim's account.

Daum was one of the employees who got the call on her home phone.“We don't know where they got the numbers from. Maybe the phone book,” she said.

The credit union posted a warning on its web site early Wednesday. It reads in part: “No Allegheny-Ludlum Brackenridge employee or phone system will contact you for this kind of information. If you received this call already and gave them personal information, please contact the credit union immediately!”

Seita and Daum wonder if some people fell for the swindle.

“It would be sad to go through something like this and lose money — especially for retired people,” Seita said.

Daum recognized the call as a scam but played along to find out what she could.Her caller ID gave a 321 area code, but police said most criminals have ways to hide their true location and phone number.

“We have called VISA and we will do a police report,” Daum said of the spoofing attempt.

Harrison and Tarentum police are investigating.

“One resident said the voice on the message wanted him to put his credit card information in after hitting Option 1. He's not a member of the credit union and he has never worked at Allegheny Ludlum,” said Tarentum Patrolman Kurt Jendrejewski.

Spoofing is against the law.

The crime is investigated by the Federal Communication Commission. The FBI's cyber crime section investigates if computers are used in addition to telephones for credit card and similar frauds.

The national Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) also accepts complaints and requests to investigate.The FCC warns people not to give out personal ID.

“Identity thieves are clever — they often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors or government agencies to get people to reveal their account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords and other identifying information,” an FCC web site warns.

It urges people to hang up and to let the FCC know about ID spoofers.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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