Citizens of Archbold have been the targets of telephone scammers.
Reports began coming in Monday morning, Aug. 11, saying people had been receiving automated phone calls telling them their credit or debit cards issued by Farmers & Merchants State Bank have been “blocked” or “locked.”
To reactivate the cards, the automated voice asks the person receiving the call to enter their card and Personal Identification Number, or PIN number.
Paul Siebenmorgen, president and chief executive officer of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, advises customers to never give out account numbers, PIN numbers, social security numbers, or any other information out over the phone.
“Why would the bank ask for your card number? We already have it,” he said.
As of early Monday afternoon, about 50 customers had contacted the bank, reporting they had provided their card information to the callers.
Transactions on all of the cards have immediately been stopped, Siebenmorgen said.
Only one person had been victimized by the phone scammers. That customer provided his card number and PIN to the automated call, and money was withdrawn from his account from an automatic teller machine– in Romania.
“That guy is just out the money,” Siebenmorgen said.
“They asked for his account number and PIN, and he gave it to them.”
Siebenmorgen said he didn’t know when the automated calls started, but F&M became aware of it between 8 and 9:30 am.
He said he suspected the scammers simply have a list of telephone numbers in the 445 and 446 telephone exchanges, did enough research to determine that F&M was the local bank, then programmed their computerized telephone bank with an appropriate message.
Update– a person responding to our posting on our Facebook page reported receiving one of the automated scam calls on her cell phone, which is not part of the 445 or 446 exchanges.
The scammers are able to confuse, or “spoof,” caller ID systems on telephones so the calls appear to be local, or come from an untraceable out-of-town number.
For example, one downtown business reported receiving an automated call from a construction company in northern California.
Joe Wyse, an Archbold police officer, said he received a call at home; caller ID traced the number back to Texas.
Several times on Monday, the Buckeye office received calls from the scammers. The caller ID was blank.
Siebenmorgen speculated that the calls are to Archbold telephone exchanges, rather than F&M customers, because people have called F&M complaining that they received a call about an F&M card being locked when they don’t have any accounts at the F&M.
Others have been receiving calls telling them there are problems with their account, and that they should call their financial institution.
That, Siebenmorgen said, means F&M telephone lines are tied up with bogus calls, so people who receive a call asking for bank account information can’t call in to check on the validity of the call they received.
“That’s their MO (modus operandi, or method of operation),” Siebenmorgen said.
“Build a fire one place, and steal money from you someplace else.”
Siebenmorgen said F&M has taken several steps to respond to the attack.
The bank placed a “fraud alert” notice on the company website warning that “customers are receiving a phone call saying their debit cards have been locked and asking for their Personal Identification Number (PIN). Remember, the F&M will never call and ask you for your PIN.”
The warning was also placed on social media websites.
Also, F&M has sent out email messages to every customer for which it has an email address, warning them not to provide information to the automated call.
That amounted to several thousand emails, Siebenmorgen said.
Also, calls to F&M are answered by a recording warning of the scam calls.
Wyse and Siebenmorgen agreed the calls were most likely coming from overseas.
Wyse said APD is not taking any action, because the department lacks the resources to combat a foreign-based operation.
Siebenmorgen stressed, if you receive an automated call asking for any personal information, whether it’s bank account numbers, PIN numbers, social security numbers, or any personal information, don’t give any information out.
Simply hang up the phone.–David Pugh-Posted 8.11, 3:41 pm