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Phone scam calls climb to hundreds

The telephone scam targeting Sound Community Bank and Strait View Credit Union customers in Sequim and Port Angeles intensified last week after seeming to fade in the face of increased public awareness.

"Crazy, that's a nice word for it. Really crazy. It's pretty unbelievable. We've had hundreds of calls, really," said Kerry Osterberg, Port Angeles branch manager for Sound Community Bank.

"Luckily our clients are well-educated. So that's very good. Only two have given out their account numbers, and no bank records have been compromised, " she said.

Sound Community Bank and Strait View Credit Union customers in Sequim and Port Angeles began receiving the calls on Feb. 18-19.



Prerecorded call

A prerecorded message would state the person's credit card had been compromised and then gave a number to call and provide the credit card number.

The number given to call was answered either by a person who then requested the credit card or other number or an automated device asking the caller to type in the numbers.

Osterberg said if someone calls to report a card as compromised, the bank immediately closes the card and issues a new one.

"We have withdrawal limits and red flags set up for anything that looks out of the ordinary for the client.

"We also make phone calls and place holds on the account. We and most banks have fraud departments and really watch transactions and their patterns," she said.



Calls in waves

Osterberg said the scam calls seem to be going in waves but the news reports of them have put customers on guard.

"The clients have really been educated. We've had several clients call and thank us," she said.

Sound Community Bank vice president Scott Boyer said nothing similar has happened in King or Pierce counties, where the bank's other branches are located.

"It seems to be a cell phone phenomenon. We thought it was starting to die down, but they are back

at it fast and furious. We have been bombarded with calls," he said.

"The callers may have acquired a cell phone list and may not be from the area so they don't know the amount of education that's been in the local media.

"The good news is people are calling in to us and they knew how to respond," Boyer said.

Contact Sound Community Bank in Sequim at 683-2818 or in Port Angeles at 452-4624. Strait View Credit Union can be reached at 452-3883.





Here is last week's report.



by BRIAN GAWLEY

Sequim Gazette



Hey, wait a minute.

Why would the bank that issued you one of its own account numbers contact you to ask for it?

Slowing down and thinking before answering are the best weapons against scam artists such as those who hit unwary Sound Community Bank and Strait View Credit Union customers in Sequim and Port Angeles on Thursday and Friday last week.

"Banks have your account and credit card numbers, and we never ask for your personal identification number," said Scott Boyer, Sound Community Bank vice president.

"Sometimes we will ask for the last four digits of your Social Security number just to verify the number."



Calls to cell phones

Clallam County Sheriff's Deputy Mel Kempf said the calls made on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 18 and 19, targeted cell phone numbers in the 360 area code.

"It was a prerecorded message saying that your credit card had been compromised and you need to call and give them your credit card number," Kempf said.

The number given to call was answered either by a person who then requested the credit card or other number or an automated device asking the caller to type in the numbers.

When people entered the telephone number into a reverse directory, it belonged to a legitimate business whose telephone number had been electronically hijacked for a short time, he said.



Call back

Boyer said banks and credit card companies do have fraud monitoring departments whose employees will call to ask about suspicious purchases or charges.

If one of those calls doesn't seem right, he recommends asking for a call-back number (or looking up one), then calling back to see if it's a legitimate call.

"When we first started getting calls, some people said the callers mentioned Strait View Credit Union. So we put out a joint news release," Boyer said.



Scam shifts

"We always have a low level of this activity everywhere, but this was such a concentration in such a small area that we had it isolated.

"The first day was almost all to cell phones, which was interesting. They either acquired, stole or purchased a list of numbers in that area," Boyer said.

"We have a few people who say they gave out their numbers. On Thursday it was bank account numbers and on Friday the callers asked for credit card numbers to get a lower interest rate."



Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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