Consumer Law

Scam Alert: Bank Account Scams

Who would refuse an offer of help? Who wouldn't want to know if their bank account was in jeopardy? Some Wisconsin residents recently learned that an offer of help may be a threat of harm in disguise. You should be skeptical of any contact from an unknown source that asks you for your bank account numbers.

Recently some residents of Tomah, Wisconsin reported a telephone scam in which an automated voice recording called and said their local bank had detected suspicious activity on their account. The recording then asked for their specific account numbers and credit card numbers. The local police were informed, who urged the public not to release any such information over the phone.

Never Give Out Your Private Information to Someone Calling You

At some point, you've probably needed to call your bank or credit card issuer with questions about your account. However, it's a much different risk you encounter when you receive the call from someone inquiring about your account. Even with the modern convenience of Caller I.D., a scammer can suppress or disguise the identifying information showing on Caller I.D. so you think it is your bank calling.

When in doubt, take the caller's first and last name, job title, and direct phone number, and tell them that you'll call them back. In the meantime, call the local phone listing for your own bank, run the scenario by them, and find out whether the call was really made by your bank.

Of course, if the caller balks at your request for a name and phone number, that's a good sign that something is wrong. After all, if your bank is calling you to warn you of a problem with your account, then the caller should , already have your account number and other related information at hand.

Report Any Potential Scams Immediately

Should you receive a request of this type, it is important to call your bank immediately. You should also follow up with a detailed written (or e-mailed) letter to your bank, where you clarify that you are not authorizing any withdrawals from your account by any person or entity. Also call the local police and the local prosecutor's office if you've actually disclosed confidential account information to a suspicious source.

If you learn from your bank or in the media that the "scammer" has been caught, seek the advice of an attorney as to what measures you can take to seek restitution. Be sure to provide your attorney with copies of all written documentation of the scam. If, however, you haven't lost any funds to the scammer, then you've suffered no tangible damage and will most likely not be able to receive any compensation. At a minimum, having reported the scam could help the police identify and stop the scam.

Take Good Notes

Be sure to keep a detailed written log of your phone contacts with your bank, including names and direct telephone numbers of the people helping you. Put your instructions to your bank in writing, date the letter and keep a copy of the letter for yourself. If you contact your bank by e-mail, be sure to print out and store a copy of any e-mail messages you send or receive on the subject.

All such documentation can come in quite handy later if the scammer has gotten to your account and has withdrawn funds. It will be important to keep records of the exact date, time and content of your contact to your bank, to protect yourself later.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Do any consumer laws protect me if a scammer gets my account numbers and steals money from my accounts?
  • How quickly does my bank have to respond if I notify it of possible fraud by a scammer?
  • Do laws on identity theft address bank account scams?
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