Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

November 13, 2012

Virginia police caution against phone, text scam

TAZEWELL, Va. — An identity theft scam guised as a text message has been trying to trick local residents into giving up personal information.

Judy Pauley, 73, of Yards, Va., said she received a text asking her to call a number with a 407 area code, claiming there was an issue with her debit card.

“I just received a missed call and it was a text message asking to hear from me immediately,” she said. “The message said my immediate attention was required. They claimed there had been a discrepancy in my debit card, and they needed to fix it. They didn’t say if they were from the bank or what company they were with.”

Pauley said she called the number that had been texted to her out of concern that something was amiss with her account.

“It kind of startled me that I got a call like this,” Pauley said. “I wondered what card they might mean and what could be wrong with my card. You don’t want to think something has happened like that. When I called the number they asked for my credit card number. ”

Pauley said she immediately knew something was wrong when the person on the other line began asking for personal information.

“When they asked for that number I just hung up, and I called the police,” Pauley said. “The phone number was a big long number that I had never seen before. The police said I did the right thing by hanging up. I called my bank to make sure everything was fine with my account, and they said it was a scam call as well.”

Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt said Pauley did the right thing by not giving out personal information then contacting law enforcement and her bank. Hieatt said many Tazewell County residents have been reporting similar scams over the past four months.

“It seems to come in spurts,” Hieatt said. “This started about four months when we had several people who came in and said they had received similar calls or texts. Some of the local banks also told us some of their customers had given their account numbers to these people.”

Hieatt said the scam artists try to trick people by claiming to have the first four numbers of their bank account number. However, the majority of banks begin all bank account numbers with the same digits, Hieatt said.

“They will text people sending the first four numbers of your bank account, which is the same numbers the bank gives out to everyone, and say there is something wrong with your account,” Hieatt said. “People are responding back and then will find hundreds of dollars have been taken.”

According to Hieatt, it can be difficult to trace the source of these calls and text messages.

“It has slowed down recently,” Hieatt said. “We have been tracing these numbers and checking on them, but a lot of them bounce from various areas. A lot of them lead back to overseas. Once you give them your account number, they can start taking money out of your account, and it can be really difficult to track these people down.”

Hieatt said the best thing to do is report scammers asking for personal information.

“Don’t respond; don’t call them back,” Hieatt said. “Never respond to an email or phone call or text message like that. Call your bank directly to ask if there is something wrong. The people who do these type of scams are always trying to find a way to get that information.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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