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Consumer Advisory Alert - February 13, 2009
Contact Bob Brammer: 515-281-6699

Text Message "Phishing" Scam Hitting Iowa Again

Con-artists using cell-phone text messages to try to steal victims’ private financial information.

Identity thieves are sending text-messages to Central Iowa cell-phone users again.  The message pretends to be from a financial institution, asks potential victims to call a number, and asks victims to key in their credit card or ATM number.

"It’s a phishing scam purely designed to get you to give up your ATM or credit card number," warned Attorney General Tom Miller. "They will run up charges on your card.  Don't fall for it.  Don't reply at all."

The AG’s Office said hundreds of Central Iowans apparently are receiving the scam text message. The office has received a couple dozen calls from consumers about the text message this afternoon. Bankers Trust’s ten branches each has received about a dozen calls about the text message, according to Jodi Paardekooper, Vice President and Security Officer.  Most Iowans are NOT providing their financial information, but several have done so.  Similar messages could appear anywhere in Iowa.

The cell-phone text message says, in somewhat fractured English:

"Notice/This is a automated message from Iowa Corporate Central CU. Your ATM card has been deactivated. To reactivate call urgent at: 506-870-8281."

Consumers who call the phone number reached a tape message as follows:

"Hello. Thank you for calling our 24-hour security department. To reactivate your card, please press 1. To leave, please press 2."   Consumers who pressed 1 were told: "Please enter your 16-digit card number."

The 506 area code is in New Brunswick, Canada -- a country that is home to a huge number of scams. The AG's Office has alerted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police "Phone Busters" anti-scam operation.

Miller advised consumers:

  • Do not give your personal information to someone who contacts you by text message, phone call, or email. This likely is a "phishing" scam to steal your financial information.

  • If you gave up your information already, contact your financial institution at once. You likely will have to close your account immediately.

The Attorney General’s Office said text-message "phishing" scams are a new variation on phishing scams in general. For years, scammers have tried to trick people using phony e-mails, asking them to click to web sites that "spoofed" authentic web sites for banks and credit card companies, eBay and major retailers, even the IRS.  Text message scams mostly appeared early this year.

In the last two weeks, Iowans have also received phony cell phone text messages purporting to be from MetaBank and from Community Choice Credit Union.

[END of Emergency Consumer Advisory.]