AG, Gate City Bank warn of phone scam: Scammers try to get debit card info

FARGO -- A recent wave of phone scams in North Dakota and Minnesota is nothing new, experts say, but this time fraudsters are taking an extra step to appear credible.

Gate City Bank
FNS Photo by Dave Wallis Michele Stein handles incoming calls at Gate City Bank in Fargo and has been busy fielding calls about a phone scam that targets confidential debit card information.

FARGO - A recent wave of phone scams in North Dakota and Minnesota is nothing new, experts say, but this time fraudsters are taking an extra step to appear credible.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Gate City Bank both warned consumers this week about a persistent phone scam that targets local area codes, uses the community bank’s name and even imitates the bank’s customer service number to retrieve personal account information from its victims.
Using a robo-dialer, scam artists dial thousands of local numbers with a false “security alert” message, according to a release from Stenehjem’s office. The message claims an account has been locked and that customers must provide confidential information such as card number, personal identification number and card security code to unlock their account.
The attorney general’s office issued warnings for similar scams in 2012 and 2013.
“These types of scams have happened before, they’re happening now and will happen again, but just never give out your personal information,” said Maureen Jelinek, director of operations for Gate City Bank.
Jelinek said though the scammers are calling randomly generated local telephone numbers, it’s likely they will reach some Gate City Bank customers because of its market share in the region. The bank has 34 locations throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.
Gate City has received “a large volume of calls” from customers and noncustomers reporting the scam, she said.
Though Gate City Bank’s name is attached to recent messages, Stenehjem warned in the release that scam artists will switch to using another bank’s name to find more victims after consumer warnings.
Since the scam started around Feb. 23, Jelinek said the bank has notified online banking customers, put warnings up on its website and mailed letters to account holders urging them not to give personal information to scammers, and that the bank has not been breached or compromised though its name is mentioned in the false account alerts.
Jelinek said bank officials don’t have an exact number of Gate City Bank customers who fell victim to the scam and gave away personal information, but it “probably isn’t high.”
“Generally most of our communities are aware of it and recognizing it as a scam, but unfortunately it’s catching people off-guard,” she said.
For customers who were affected, she said the bank is helping to close accounts or cards, open new ones and remove any fraudulent charges.
She and Stenehjem emphasized that in most cases, businesses will not call customers to solicit personal information, so the best response for these calls is to hang up.
“There isn’t any reputable company that should be calling you and asking for that information over the phone,” Jelinek said. “The best bet is to hang up and call a number you’re familiar with to validate that the call is real and not a scam.”

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