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Apollo Trust customers targeted in telephone scam

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 5:48 p.m.

At least 200 customers and non-customers contacted Apollo Trust Co. on Wednesday and Thursday to ask about a telephone scam, company officials said.

The automated phone call falsely tells people their debit cards are frozen and they need to provide personal identification numbers to reuse the cards.

Apollo Trust doesn't use automated calls to seek information from customers, officials said.

Apollo Trust discovered the scam on Wednesday and worked “well into the night” answering questions and taking steps to protect customers who gave information, said Nelson Person, Apollo Trust's president and chief executive officer.

The bank has a warning on its web page: “If you received a telephone call from Apollo Trust Company regarding your debit card, the call is fraudulent. If you provided information regarding your debit card number, please call the after hours hot card service at 1-800-264-5578 to close your debit card.”

The number of calls had tapered off by Thursday, Person said.

Apollo Trust doesn't use a recorded phone message seeking private information that the bank would already have, he said.

“Never give out personal banking information on the phone,” he warned.

If there is a customer account problem, officials would send a letter or telephone them to visit their branch, he said.

Person said the 200 or so calls came from a wide geographic area, not from customers at a particular branch. He said he isn't aware of a similar scam perpetrated on other banks in the area.

“This came out of the blue,” he said.

State police spokesman Trooper Adam Reed said he has heard of similar scams but not at Apollo Trust.

“A lot of these originate overseas and, unfortunately, they are on the increase,” he said. “We urge people to be very wary of anyone seeking personal information on the phone. Banks already have PIN or Social Security numbers and wouldn't ask for them.”

No one from the state Attorney General's office nor the Southwestern Pennsylvania Financial Crimes Task Force was available for comment Thursday.

Apollo Mayor-Elect Jeff Held said he was one of the people who received the bogus automatic phone call.

“It sounded legitimate. It said I could reactivate my card by pressing 3. Then, it asked for the expiration date of my card. When I heard it asking for my personal number, I hung up,” Held said.

He contacted Apollo Trust, and “they put an immediate stop on my card,” he said.

“Obviously, it was a red flag when non-customers got the call. But not for everyone.”

Debbie Kowalczyk Stankus of Apollo said she got one of the robocalls.

“My caller ID said the number was a pay phone. When we did a reverse lookup on the Internet, it said it was a land line. It was Pacific Bell at Anaheim, Calif. The number was 714-535-1665,” she said.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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