Alaskans targeted by phone banking fraud

A phishing scam is targeting Alaskans with automated phone calls to steal personal financial information.

The scammer or scammers have been using prerecorded calls to trick residents from across the state into divulging their bank and/or credit card numbers and the corresponding PINs. In the phony phone calls, the phishers identify themselves as employees of nearby bank branches — in some cases claiming affiliation with MasterCard — said Jay Blury, a spokesperson for Northrim Bank.

The automated calls tell recipients that their cards are locked and, in order to unlock them, they must enter their card and PIN numbers, according to Blury and spokespeople from other banks in the state. Northrim’s customers were among those scammed, but they were not the only ones, and there has been no breach in the bank’s systems, Blury said.

The phishers have also targeted the members of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and First National Bank but precision is not their specialty; they cast a wide net. Several Wells Fargo customers have reported receiving fraudulent calls despite the fact that they aren’t members of the banks identified, according to David Kennedy, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo.

“We’ve gotten reports from customers getting calls about banks like Northrim, and they don’t even have Northrim cards,” he said.

Northrim, First National, and Alaska USA have all issued alerts to make their customers aware of the scam. All three banks advise customers against providing their card and PIN numbers unless they initiate the calls. Those who think they gave personal information to the phone-call fraudsters should contact their bank immediately. Alaska USA has already shut down some cards as a result, said Dan McCue, the bank’s senior vice president of corporate administration.

“Don’t give out information over the phone because we wouldn’t call you for it,” McCue said.

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