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spoofed banking scam
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Security & privacy

This phone scam fooled someone out of thousands of dollars

There are many ways for scammers to get their hands on your information and money. Text messages with malicious links are common, and some criminals use QR codes to harvest your data.

Others take a bit of a more hands-on approach, opting to call victims. These scammers can be persuasive, and it can be challenging to determine whether they are legitimate.

Read on to see how someone thought they were dealing with someone from their bank, only to have thousands of dollars stolen from their account.

Here’s the backstory

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in criminals impersonating government officials and utility companies. The callers often claim that you must pay a penalty, for example, for not appearing for jury duty.

Those are usually easy to spot as scams. But as one Pennsylvania resident found out, when your bank calls, it becomes tricky. According to a Westmoreland County District Attorney, the victim received a call from PNC Bank.

The caller knew the last four digits of the victim’s debit card and told him that fraudulent charges had been made to his account. The bank would send him a new debit card to correct the problem and prevent further charges. All that he needed to provide was his debit card’s PIN to “verify” his identity.

But the caller from PNC Bank was a scammer, and as soon as the victim revealed his PIN, the criminal withdrew around $4,000 from two accounts. The thief was able to spoof PNC Bank’s phone number, making it appear on caller ID that it was a legitimate call. It wasn’t.

How to avoid being ripped off by spoofed calls

Criminals are getting better at spoofing everything from websites to phone calls. Even if caller ID shows that it’s your bank calling, it could be a crook. Things are so bad that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently warned people to stay vigilant.

It’s to the point where you can no longer blindly trust caller ID. If you hand over banking information or other sensitive details to scammers, you risk your finances.

The FTC gave the following suggestions to avoid falling victim to spoofed call scams:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If the call is legit, they will leave a voicemail that you can handle at a later time.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller or a recording asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with yes or no. A scammer could record your voice saying the word yes and use it to sign you up for subscriptions that cost money.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately. Don’t take the bait. Hang up if you’re feeling pressured.
  • Talk to your phone company about call-blocking tools and check into apps you can download to your mobile device. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics. More information about robocall blocking is available at

Don’t forget to check your voicemail regularly to ensure you’re not missing important messages. If you find spam messages in your voicemail inbox, delete them ASAP.

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