Olympia, WA - Access to your credit or debit card is the goal of a new robo-calling scam that has cropped up this month around the nation, including in Washington.
The caller claims to be from your bank, informing you that your debit or credit card has been locked or frozen and asking that you enter the account number and 'PIN' to reactivate it. People who are traveling or near their credit limit might think a locked card is a possibility, and punch in those digits. But the Washington Attorney General's office says it's a scam.
Doug Walsh, who heads the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division, says those who have fallen for the scam should consider putting a fraud alert on their credit reports or getting a temporary credit freeze, which should cost less than $20.
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"It's a very economical way to ensure that, during that danger period after you've given out your information, that you're not going to be immediately victimized. The other thing is to always alert your financial institutions to this behavior, so that they can put out the word and be as alert as possible on your behalf."
Credit freezes are often free to seniors or people who have been victimized, Walsh says. He notes credit and identity theft are on the rise as social networking becomes more popular with crooks as well as everyone else, and suggests that people be more careful about what they put online.
"They hand out their phone number and their personal information. Their personal relationship information is often transparent. It's a bad combination of two cultures: a criminal culture, and a culture where maintaining your personal information isn't necessarily the highest priority."
He also recommends reporting robo-call incidents online to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC doesn't investigate every complaint, but tracks the scams and shares the information with law enforcement through its Consumer Sentinel Network. The FTC complaint site is ftccomplaintassistant.gov.