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Better Business Bureau Scam Alert: Responding to that phony bank text message could cost you thousands

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One of scammers’ favorite tactics is impersonating a person or organization you know and trust. That’s the premise of this new text message scam, which has been popping up in recent BBB Scam Tracker reports. This time, con artists are impersonating your bank.

How the scam works

  You receive a text message that looks like a fraud alert from your bank. It claims there is some unusual activity in your account. It may read, “Bank Fraud Alert – Did you approve a transaction for $1,000? Reply YES or NO.” If you reply to the text, the scammer now knows they have an active number – and a person to scam.

  The scam doesn’t end there. The scammer will call you to follow up, and the number will appear in the caller ID as coming from your bank. When you answer, the caller claims to be a bank representative who can help stop the fraudulent charges. To do so, you need to send money to yourself using Zelle or another digital wallet app. The caller walks you through the process of connecting the app to your bank account; then they ask you to verify the connection by sharing the code your bank sent.

  Don’t do it! If you give the scammer your verification code, the scammer can set up an account with your phone number and email – but their bank account information. If that happens, when you send money to “yourself,” you’re actually sending money to the scammer. Disputing the charges will be difficult because the scammer has tricked you into approving the transaction. Sending money through a digital wallet app is like using cash, making it very hard to get your money back.

  One consumer reported this experience to BBB Scam Tracker: “I received two texts stating it was the Wells Fargo Fraud Department wanting to know if I had made a Zelle transfer… I responded no and immediately got another text stating, ‘Thank you, no further action is needed, a representative will call you from 800-869-3556.’ Within a few minutes, I got a call from an individual stating they were with the Wells Fargo fraud department. The caller ID on my phone said Wells Fargo, and the person said they could reverse the transaction if I sign into my online account and open the Zelle app. I did this and the caller asked if I saw my name. I told him I saw my name in two places. It looked like I would be sending money to myself. The caller said everything was fine and the money would come back to my account. After the call ended, I got two texts stating funds for $2,500 and $1,000 would be deposited in my Wells Fargo account. I went back into my account and there was no evidence of any deposits. What I did see was $3,500 taken out of my account and a zero account balance.”

How to avoid bank fraud scams

  • Understand your bank’s policies. Know that your bank will never ask you to send money to yourself. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, it’s a scam.
  • Watch out for fake caller IDs. Scammers can spoof caller ID names and numbers to make you think you are receiving a call from a reputable source. If you weren’t expecting to be contacted by your bank, it’s best to avoid answering. Instead, call the number on the back of your ATM card to confirm that there is an issue.
  • Never share one-time passcodes. Scammers can use one-time passcodes from your bank or any other company to access your accounts and change information. Don’t share them with anyone, no exceptions.
  • Contact your bank if you suspect a scam. If you receive an unsolicited call, text or email that you suspect is a scam, contact your bank immediately and let them know.
  • Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Ignore any instructions to reply yes or no if you receive an unsolicited, suspicious text message. If you reply to a scammer, they could save your number as “active” and target you with future scams.

For more information

  See the related BBB Scam Alert about phony banking texts and calls and review the BBB Tip on avoiding impostor scams; https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/18596-scam-alert-hit-delete-on-phony-banking-texts. If you spot a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams. Do you want more information about how to avoid getting scammed? Check out the Spot a Scam page and sign up to receive weekly scam alerts; https://www.bbb.org/all/spot-a-scam.

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