Scam Alert: frozen bank account scam

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The Better Business Bureau warns of an old scam that's back just in time for the holiday shopping season. Multiple consumers have reported receiving calls from someone pretending to be from their banking institution. The callers claim that the consumer's debit card or bank account has been locked due to suspicious activity.

After giving away personally identifiable information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, and pin numbers, the consumer discovers that their account was never frozen and their money has been stolen.

The holidays are an opportunistic time for scammers to attempt this scam as many consumers will be traveling out of state and making numerous purchases. The card holder may believe the call is legitimate due to the large number of transactions and/or purchases made outside their home area.

"Always take steps to verify any organization or individual who requests personal information over the phone," said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. "Tell them you will return their call after checking out the situation or issue. Legitimate organizations will understand your caution. Then, independently find authentic contact information and call to see if the situation is real. Don't use the number the caller provided as it may be a fraudulent number."

Here are some BBB tips for avoiding these types of calls:

Call your bank or check out their website. Find your bank's phone number on the back of your credit/debit card and call to confirm the status of your card. Don't call the phone number given in the call.

Most banking institutions will notify you via mail if your account has been compromised. If the method of contact is unusual for your banking institution, air on the side of caution. It's doubtful they have changed policies without alerting you to the changes.

Be familiar with your bank's communication methods. Ask if they contact their customers via the phone. Also, be wary of text messages. Did you sign up for text messages alerts? Be aware of how your bank communicates with you, because anything out of the ordinary may be a scam.

Don't trust the caller ID. Scammers can now make any name and number they desire show up on your caller ID. Just because it says your bank's name doesn't mean it's actually them calling.

Start With Trust. Contact BBB first! BBB receives calls on phishing scams every day and know scammers' methods and tricks.

Regularly check your statements. Monitor your statements on a regular basis to ensure there have been no unauthorized purchases. The faster you catch these transactions, the more likely you will get reimbursed for the losses.