New scam uses texts disguised as bank alerts

SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. – The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office is warning local residents about texting fraud in the area -- con artists are pretending to be from banks and targeting anyone who will hit send.

The scam comes directly to consumers, right to their cell phone. A text message appears to be from their bank and says their account is locked. In order to unlock the account, the unsuspecting victim is asked to follow a link, divulging their personal information.

Ruth Whetnall said she got the text on Monday. “I look at the text message and read that it’s from the Bank of America and my debit account has been locked,” she said. Her gut told her something wasn’t right, and one word in the text confirmed her suspicion.

“I do have a bank of America card, but I do not have a debit card.”

Whetnall then did exactly what experts tell you to do. She did not follow the link, but instead called Bank of America to report the strange message.

“She went through my account and said, ‘You’re all paid up, thank you for your payment,’” said Whetnall. She was then asked to send a copy of the text to the bank, which she said she did.

Experts said if you have responded to a text like the one Whetnall received, you need to act fast. First call the bank.

“If you have actually processed a transaction, gave money , it’s going to be really difficult to get that money back,” said David Quinlan, a spokesman for the Better Business Bureau. “If it’s your credit card, obviously call your credit card company and cancel the charge.”

He said if you haven’t made any transaction, but given personal information, you still need to call and put a fraud alert on your accounts.

Quinlan said it’s important to recognize the red flags of scamming.

“Your bank will not contact you by text message, Facebook message or email asking you to disclose your personal information,” he said.

While some believe the elderly are the ones being targeted, research shows it’s the younger generation that’s most likely to fall for these types of scams.

“Millennials seem to throw caution to the wind, they feel invincible and they may fall for these scams more than seniors do,” said Quinlan.

A new report by the Better Business Bureau shows 18-24-year-olds are three times as likely to lose money in a scam than someone who is 65-years-old or older.

Whetnall said the “kids need to listen to someone that’s old like me,” before adding, “Be careful.”

The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office said they are seeing scams of all kinds hitting the area, and they do keep track. If you received a text, you’re urged to alert your local authorities.