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Connellsville bank catches telephone scam

| Saturday, May 31, 2008

Connellsville police Chief Ed McSheffrey is warning area residents of a telephone scam reported in the city.

He said a Connellsville bank contacted police regarding a scam in which residents will receive a recorded message pretending to be from a bank.

"The message asks for your banking card number, your personal identification number and the card's expiration date," McSheffrey said. "A legitimate financial institution never asks for this information over the phone. Any phone message like this, the public should notify their financial institution and tell them they got a call. Don't leave any financial information with anybody."

McSheffrey said his department has not yet received any complaints of people having their money or identities being stolen as a result of this scam, but cautions residents to be wary.

State Attorney General Tom Corbett said telephone and Internet scam artists seek personal information in order to steal both money and identities. This current phone scam is called "vishing."

Vishing scams attempt to trick targets into divulging personal information such as credit card, bank account and social security numbers using new telephone technology, Corbett's office reported in a statement.

Typically, "vishing" targets will receive a phone call from what appears to be a legitimate business, such as their bank or credit card issuer, wherein a recorded message notifies the target that their account has been compromised. The target is then directed to a "1-800 number" where an automated system requests the caller enter their account or credit card number or even their Social Security number to secure their account.

However, by entering this information, the victim enables the thief to clear the victim's bank account, run up large credit balances or even open new accounts under the victim's identity.

Caller ID systems often provide little or no protection against this scam. Using readily available Voice over Internet Protocol phone numbers, which allow individuals to make phone calls using the Internet rather than the traditional telephone infrastructure, the shammer can disguise both incoming and return phone numbers as those of legitimate businesses. They show up on caller ID as that of the financial institution the shammer claims to represent, when in reality the VoIP number could be anywhere in the world. This scam is especially disarming because it uses a familiar medium, the telephone, to mimic the ways in which we typically interact with our financial institutions.

Corbett's office cautions: "Treat any communication seeking this information or directing you to a Web site or toll-free number where you are asked to enter your Social Security number, account number, credit card number, user ID or password with suspicion. If the communication pertains to an existing account or government program in which you are already enrolled, the person or entity contacting you should already have this information. When in doubt, hang up the phone or delete the email and consult your local Blue Pages, the back of your credit card or a previous financial statement for a trusted contact number. If the call was legitimate, the entity or agency will know what you are calling about and direct you to the appropriate personnel. When approached about opening a new account or enrolling in a new program, do not hesitate to check up on the solicitor before supplying it with sensitive information. You may also simply ask if the entity is willing to substitute another number for your Social Security number. While many companies use your Social Security number to identify your account with them, they are often willing to substitute another number for this purpose."

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