Colorado's Attorney General is warning residents statewide of a rash of telephone scams targeting customers' bank accounts, but Bayfield resident Cindy Hale already was alerting her friends Monday by the time the official announcement was made.
"We've received two phone calls from Pine River Valley Bank, and we don't bank there, so I knew something was up," Hale said.
The scenario Hale described was almost word-for-word as the warning issued by John Suthers' Denver office. An automated voice told Hale there was an issue with her personal identification number for an ATM card and asked her to enter the number on her phone.
"You should never give your Social Security number, bank account number or other personal information to anyone over the phone, especially on calls you do not initiate," Suthers said in the release.
Hale, having no account information to share, hung up and reported the call to the bank's Bayfield office. An automated message told her the bank was aware of the problem and provided a toll-free number to report the scheme.
Dan Ford, president and chief executive officer Pine River Valley Bank, said after 39 years in the banking business there are few scams he hasn't seen, but modern technology makes combating the crimes significantly more difficult. He said the bank has cut off accessibility to its accounts from several states where the automated calls are more prevalent. He declined to name the states so as not to alert any possible suspects of ongoing investigations.
"Not many years ago the worst thing you had to worry about in the way of fraud was bad checks, making sure you were on top of forgeries and what could happen with a regular checking account," Ford said.
The latest phone scam, which is not unique to Pine River Valley Bank, comes one year after the Bayfield bank's customers were targeted in an Internet scam. In April 2008, a thief constructed a duplicate of Pine River Valley Bank's Web site and targeted victims via e-mail. Most of those targeted, like the phone scam, are not bank customers, but the criminals choose several banks and play the percentages by targeting as many people as possible.
"They randomly call everybody and hope some of that mud thrown at the wall sticks," Ford said.
Mike Saccone, communications director for Suthers' office, said privacy concerns prevent the Attorney General from identifying individual banks misrepresented in the phone scam but confirmed that there are several throughout Colorado. Individual customer complaints are not made public while an investigation is ongoing.
Saccone repeated Suthers' warning and said only a handful of entities have a legitimate claim to request a Social Security number: government tax and welfare agencies, professional and occupational licensing boards, an employer and the state department of motor vehicles.