Identity Thieves Using Cell Phones, Texting to Steal Personal Info

BALTIMORE (July 16, 2009) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is warning Maryland residents to be on the lookout for new scams that are using cell phones to obtain sensitive personal bank information. Not only have there been many reports of scammers calling residents’ cell phones, but they have also started to send text messages that appear to be from a bank or other financial institution, similar to “phishing” e-mails. These text messages appear to be from a bank and ask the recipient to call a toll-free number to resolve a conflict with their account. The number is often an automated message service that asks the potential victim to input bank account numbers or other sensitive personal information.

“Anyone who receives an unsolicited call, text message or e-mail should not give out any personal information,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Never give out sensitive personal information unless you initiated the contact with your financial institution, and you know you can trust the person on the other end of the phone.”

Identity thieves use these tactics to obtain account numbers, Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting victims who believe the communications to be from their bank or other financial institution. The thieves will then use the information to drain the victim’s bank account, or open new credit accounts in the victim’s name. Maryland ranks 11th in the nation for identity theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission with 5,412 complaints filed in 2008, an increase of almost 1,000 over 2007.

Most financial institutions will not contact their customers by text message, or ask for personal information through an e-mail. Anyone who receives a suspicious text message, phone call, or e-mail should verify the sender by going to the financial institution’s website or looking at their account statements to confirm the phone number or web address. Never click on a link in a suspicious e-mail as this could download a virus onto your computer.

Suspicious communications can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission or the Identity Theft Unit of the Office of the Attorney General online at idtheft(at) or by telephone at 410-576-6491.

Source: Attorney General Douglas Gansler

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