TB File Photo Reports from local residents of telephone credit card scams have increased in the past few days.
TB File Photo
Reports from local residents of telephone credit card scams have increased in the past few days.
BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin News Writer

egebert@timesbulletin.com

The latest credit card scam has touched many local residents in the past few days. Reports of telephone calls about a frozen bank account or debit card from an automated source have flooded area financial institutions.

"The primary institution that is getting hit is us," stated Skip Farmer, branch sales manager of the Van Wert branch of Three Rivers Federal Credit Union. "I would say that two-thirds of all the calls we've been getting have been people letting us know that those calls are going out."

Hundreds of local residents have informed banks and credit unions about the calls. Some have reported other financial institutions named by the automated voice, sometimes even institutions where the person does not have an account.

Other banks in the area have reported customers receiving the same calls. Often the person could not remember what financial institution was named by the voice.

When the call is received, a phone number will appear on a telephone with caller ID. An automated voice will say that an account at a particular financial institution has been frozen and that information needs to be verified. The person will then be asked to press a key to give that information. When the key is pressed, the voice asks for the number of a Visa check card or ATM card and PIN number.

"Once a person puts their numbers in and the call ends, it is very quick that the accounts are accessed and withdrawals of $200 at a time are taken out," Farmer warned.

Van Wert County Sheriff Stan Owens issued an advisory about the calls, reminding residents "not to give out any information that would allow these scam artists to access their accounts, credit cards, etc."

If anyone receives a scam call, he is advised to hang up and not give out any information, then contact the financial institution and let the staff know about the call.

Farmer noted, "If they did mistakenly give out their information, they need to again contact their institution and cancel their card immediately. That will stop the access to the account. They do not need to close their accounts. Once that card is stopped, it will stop any activity on that card."

Since many calls are coming on evenings and weekends, it is likely that charges will be made to the card before the financial institution opens the next day to stop the access. Then a dispute will need to be filed. "Each institution should have a way to dispute that with Visa. Normally those funds are provisionally put back into your account that same day or within 24 hours," said Farmer.

Although most of the scam calls reported to TRFCU have been in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area and in Van Wert County, other financial institutions have been alerted to the same scam affecting other areas as well.

As with most scams, common sense is the best way to avoid falling victim. Credit card numbers or PIN numbers should never be given to anyone calling over the phone. Also, automated systems are not generally used for important situations like frozen accounts.

"Three Rivers does not do automated telephone calls," Farmer noted. "If we need to call you about your accounts, we're going to do that in person."