Some call it the most dangerous bank scam ever: A text or phone call from your bank stating your account has been locked for fraud.
That's scary enough. But if you fall for this slick scam, it's even scarier.
Michelle Hoeting got a text message on her phone the other day, and immediately started to worry. Her bank -- Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bank-- was locking her account.
"It said my account has been locked due to suspicious activity," she said.
She almost clicked the link, when another text arrived, this one from Wells Fargo Bank. It also said her online banking had been "locked due to unusual activity."
"It was terrifying that my bank was going to be locked,"she said. "I use my debit card for almost everything."
But Hoeting didn't have a Wells Fargo account, which is when she got suspicious.
Good thing: It was a text message scam, often called "smishing," the text version of an email phishing scam.
How they target victims
So how do these scammers know you have an account with that particular bank?
The FTC believes they don't know who you bank with, but rather send these texts randomly, knowing if you have an account with that bank you're going to pay attention.
In the 513 area code, they may target victims with Fifth Third Bank texts, as that is the dominant bank in the Cincinnati area.
Shortly before the pandemic hit, Damon Lander of Middletown, Ohio was hit by this scam.
"They had detected suspicious activity, and they were going to help me," he says of the alert he received.
So he gave his account number, but within minutes realized he had been scammed.
"They changed my user name, my password, changed my card PIN, and started to withdraw money," he told us.
The FTC says if you get a suspicious text or phone call from your bank....
- Do not click any links.
- Do not call a phone number in the text, as it may be the scammer's number.
- Never give your account number to someone who calls or texts you.
If your bank claims a problem with your account, call the bank at their main number, not the number given you from any text, call or email.
That way you are not scammed, and you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com