Don’t be fooled by texts from ‘banks’

08/05/2010 12:00 AM |

Phone calls and e-mails aren’t the only way identity thieves are tricking victims into handing out important personal information, police are warning.

Text message “phishing” scams have emerged as a major way identities are being swiped, according to Suffolk County Police Department Sgt. Stephen Jensen.

“Texts are another twist to see if people can get information from victims,” he said.

Police said one text scam reported recently in Suffolk involves a message from someone claiming to be from a financial institution and requesting account information in order to update databases, recover from computer crashes or fix other problems with the victims’ accounts. The messages also sometimes come from senders posing as merchants or government officials.

Sgt. Jensen said that while most people know not to give their information, many have fallen for the scam.

“Sometimes people respond to a message they think is from Bank of America and they don’t even have a Bank of America account,” he said.

Suffolk police are reminding the public never to reveal personal identifying information to anyone who makes an unsolicited contact by phone, e-mail or text message.

To avoid becoming the victim of a scam, the department’s Identity Theft Unit recommends that residents verify any electronic or telephone request through independent means before releasing personal information.

Potential victims should call the local office of any government agency or business through a publicly listed phone number to verify that personal information is actually required; though financial institutions will usually not request account information through such unsolicited communications, police said.

“It’s all about spreading the word,” Sgt. Jensen said. “We want people to be aware of these scams.”

For more information regarding identity theft prevention and resolution, visit and click on the ID Theft Unit link.

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