HELENA – Montanans are being targeted by a new version of a “phishing” phone scam, Attorney General Steve Bullock warned on Monday.
Bullock’s Office of Consumer Protection became aware of the scam when its lead attorney, Jim Molloy, got an automated or “robo” call on his cell phone claiming to be from First National Bank. The message said his ATM card had been “suspended because it was compromised” and directed him to press 1 and then to enter his 14-digit ATM card number. Molloy hung up without providing the information and instead called the bank.
Joe Kesler, chief executive officer with First Montana Bank (formerly First National Bank of Montana) confirmed that the phone pitch is a scam and that he has heard from about half a dozen customers who have provided their card numbers. While the message purports to be from First National Bank, the calls are part of a “phishing” scam that tries to trick unsuspecting consumers into giving up their personal account information.
Bullock stressed that, while this latest scam involves First Montana Bank, last spring a similar scam targeted another Montana bank. He said that the best defense is for consumers to be aware and very suspicious of anyone who claims to be calling or emailing to request sensitive personal or financial information.
“Unfortunately, telephones, cell phones and the Internet give thieves a way into our homes and, if we’re not careful, into our bank accounts and wallets,” Bullock said. “Montanans need to realize how important it is to protect their personal information from those who try to steal our identities and run up bills in our names.”
Whether they are made via telephone, cell phone, e-mail or text messaging, these scams are known as “phishing” because they try to lure people into releasing their personal information-like credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.
“Like any legitimate bank or business, we don’t call our customers to ask for this sensitive information over the phone, by e-mail or through text messages. If we’re your bank, we already know your account number,” Kesler said, “so I urge folks to contact their financial institution first if ever they have any questions about something like this.”
Bullock warned that consumers should always be cautious of any unsolicited communication requesting personal information, as those who try to steal personal, sensitive information are always adapting their tricks.
•Be suspicious of warnings that accounts or cards will be shut down with little or no notice if you don’t reconfirm your billing information. Don’t be pressured into responding before you can contact the legitimate organization.
•Do not respond to an automated call or reply to an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal information. Legitimate businesses don’t ask for these types of information via e-mail. Contact the company directly using a telephone number or a website address you know to be legitimate.
For more information about the Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Protection visit www.consumerprotection.mt.gov or, to contact the office, call toll-free at (800) 481-6896.
If you are a customer of First Montana Bank and suspect you have been a victim of this phishing attack, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-824-2692.