Bank scam hits parish

Scammers even call sheriff in vehicle warranty con

Some residents in St. Charles Parish have been the target of an elaborate e-mail scam that tries to fool customers of Capitol One Bank into giving out their account information.

And a second scam, which tries to trick victims into giving out personal information to renew their vehicle’s supposedly expiring warranty, had a pretty impressive target – St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne.

The Capitol One Bank scam begins when a customer of the bank receives an e-mail that advises them that their account has been either suspended or a target of fraud, according to Champagne. The e-mail has a link that takes the customer to a Web site that is almost identical to the actual Capitol One Bank site.

“The e-mails have banners, which appear real and the sites they send you to can actually show legitimate web pages, which have been copied as a cover to hide this attempt to defraud you,” Champagne said.

The person is then asked to provide certain personal information so that the site can verify the customer’s identity. That information includes the name, address, credit card number, signature panel code, social security number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name of the customer.

“This information will then be used by the perpetrators to commit identity theft in various forms and steal your money,” Champagne said. “The scheme has become very common on the Internet and is run by very sophisticated Internet thieves with substantial computer knowledge.”

The scammers won’t just use e-mail though – they also use pop-up ads that appear to be legitimate to those searching the web.

The only way to verify that there are actual problems with a Capitol One Bank account is to call the company.

“You should be suspicious of any unsolicited e-mail which directs you to another site to clear up the ‘problems with your account,’” Champagne said. “Do not call the number provided in the e-mail. Verify the number yourself through independent means.”

Legitimate companies don’t ask for personal information over e-mail and Capitol One says to contact them immediately if such a request does appear in a customer’s in-box by calling 1-800-951-6951 for credit card customers, 1-888-822-2274 for TowerNet customers or 1-800-933-3993 for retail bank customers.

“The FBI and other agencies are in a constant battle against these Internet criminals,” Champagne said. “They are difficult to locate and may well operate via servers in foreign countries. The best way to avoid being a victim is to protect yourself by verifying suspicious, unsolicited ‘financial institution’ e-mails.”

To prevent these e-mails from even coming in the first place, Capitol One says to keep user ID and password information safe, protecting them like house keys. Also, make sure to have a tough to guess password and always log out after viewing account information online.

Some scam e-mails also contain software that can harm a computer or track a person’s activities on the Internet. Therefore, it’s important to always use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall.

The holidays always bring scammers, who are trying to take advantage of people who are worrying about paying bills and buying presents. Champagne himself was the intended victim of a separate scam that tried to get his personal information by saying that his car warranty had expired.

“I received a recorded message on my cell phone indicating that the warranty on my vehicle was expiring and that I needed to take immediate action to re-instate the warranty,” Champagne said.

When he called, the representative immediately asked for the make and model of his vehicle. Champagne answered with a fake make and model, and when he asked what company he was talking to, the call was immediately disconnected.
“I tried to call the number back immediately and received disconnect messages,” Champagne said.


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