BANGOR, Maine — Scam artists are using a new automated phone and e-mail system — and the names of trusted local banks — to get people to turn over financial or personal information, police say.
The most recent scam comes as an automated call, text or e-mail that says your bank account has been compromised and asks for debit card or bank account numbers to re-activate them, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Tuesday.
“Don’t give that stuff out ever, no matter what,” he said.
In this recent round of phone fraud, known as phishing, the criminals are using names of two banks, Machias Savings Bank and Merrill Bank, to gain the trust of those they call, Edwards said.
Don’t be fooled, Edwards said, adding that legitimate banks and other financial institutes do not operate that way.
Machias Savings Bank’s Web site says the bank “will never ask you for personal information, passwords, account or card numbers,” or send you an e-mail or text message with a link to a Web site. “Do not click on links, call any numbers back, or provide any information,” the site says.
The bank described the scam as “ongoing phishing attacks” and asked those who have fallen prey to the scams to call the bank immediately.
“If you have responded to any of these attempts and have given out your account information, please contact our Customer Service department during normal business hours at 866-416-9302,” the Web site says.
The Merrill Bank site had a similar message listed under the title, “Be aware of Phishing scams.”
“We would never ask for sensitive financial data or your login credentials via e-mail,” the bank’s Web site says. “Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests to ‘verify account information.’”
When in doubt, call the bank, it says.
“Should you have any questions, please contact us at 1-888-775-4070,” the Merrill Web site says.
The situation is frustrating for police because “there is not a whole lot we can do with it,” Edwards said of reported phone and Internet scams. For that reason, police urge those who get the calls, texts or e-mails to contact FairPoint Communications’ security line at 866-641-7475.
“They are the clearinghouse for all fraud by phone complaints,” Edwards said in a post on the department’s Facebook page.
He added that “they have the time and resources” to investigate phishing crimes, which target their customers.
The best way to prevent scammers from getting information is to just hang up, ignore suspect texts and delete questionable e-mails, Edwards said.
“It’s just a mess,” he said. “They used to target just home phones. Now they’re going to cell phones” and the Internet.