FBI Issues Warning on Text Message Scams Targeting Bank Accounts

FBI Issues Warning on Text Message Scams Targeting Bank Accounts
Cover Image Source: Photo by fauxels |Pexels

We depend on our banks and brokers to protect our money in a world where fraud is commonplace. But exercise caution! Because of this trust, con artists can persuade victims to transfer their funds under the pretense of safeguarding them. The FBI and WBRC have released a warning about this and some practical advice on how to protect your hard-earned money from con artists. This predicament was brought on by a text message that Kelsey Herrett got inquiring about a questionable wire transfer. When she said, "No" scammers started a series of coordinated actions.

Image Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio |Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio |Pexels

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Kelsey Herrett got a call claiming to be from a Wells Fargo representative. They told her to go through some verification steps as suspicious activity was reported on her account. Herrett consented, taking the call seriously since it seemed to be from Wells Fargo's customer support line. She was unaware that the con artists had faked the number. They persuaded Herrett to move her money to a new, purportedly safer bank account to protect it.

"He seemed to know every detail of the Wells Fargo procedures. He even reassured me, saying, 'As a Wells Fargo agent, I'll never ask you to disclose your passwords or any specific login details to me.' So, naturally, I felt comfortable and safe," Herrett recalled.

Herrett proceeded with care, but in the end, she was provided with fictitious account and routing numbers. Ultimately, she unintentionally gave the con artist about $2,000 in funds.

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When Herrett looks back on the experience, she sees how deceitful the caller had been, "Looking back, I see that I did everything. I made all the moves, but he guided me through it and made me believe he was a legitimate agent."

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Cases like Herrett's keep the FBI busy. "It's heartbreaking. We've seen people not only empty their accounts and retirement savings but also take out mortgages on homes that were already paid off just to fall deeper into these scams," explained Matt Tootle, a Supervisory Agent with the FBI's Birmingham field office.

Tootle cautions that you probably won't be protected if you're duped into transferring money out of your account. Even if financial advertisements claim to have "zero liability" for fraud, your retirement assets and bank account may not be as safe as you believe. In contrast to credit cards, bank accounts typically offer fewer protections, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

"You own the money. They won't stop you if you decide to withdraw it," Tootle stressed.

According to Tootle, more institutions are taking action to alert their clients about these frauds as they become more aware of them.

"They take many precautionary measures, asking questions like, 'Did someone tell you to do this?' or 'Is someone threatening you?' or 'Has someone instructed you to lie to us?'" Tootle explained.

Image Source: Photo by Porapak Apichodilok | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Porapak Apichodilok | Pexels

To avoid the heartbreak of losing your life savings, Tootle advises that if you don't recognize the number or text message, don't respond. It could save you a lot of trouble.

According to the FTC, consumers reported losing a staggering $330 million to text message scams last year. "Nothing is ever so urgent that you can't take the time to reach out to a trusted friend. If something seems serious or urgent, always take a moment to call someone you trust and get a second opinion," Tootle advised. Herrett understands that her money is lost for good. She mentioned that the bank has already concluded its fraud investigation.

"It was just shy of $2,000, which is a significant amount of money, but I'll bounce back from that. However, there are elderly individuals out there who might be trusting and end up sending their entire life savings, and they might not recover from that," Herrett lamented.

Never transfer or move your money to "protect" it; that's a scam. Another tip is to never agree to keep a secret; scammers often try to isolate you from people you know and trust. If you encounter such scams, report them to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/ or to the FTC here: https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/.



 

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