Martha’s Vineyard’s three local banks have warned customers to beware of phone scammers, who targeted large numbers of Island residents on Thursday night, seeking their account details.
The automated calls attempt to trick people by saying their accounts have been “suspended,” then transferring them to a “security center” where they are asked to provide their card numbers and security codes.
Customers of the Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank, Edgartown National and Bank of Martha's Vineyard/Sovereign Bank all received the late-night calls.
The banks have asked anyone who provided the account information to contact the bank immediately.
But those who did not respond to the calls had no need for concern; the fact that they had received a call did not mean there had been any breach of the banks&rsquo security.
The scam, called phishing, systematically calls numbers within a particular area code,taking the odds that the person who answers will have an account with a given local bank or other financial institution.
Thus a number of callers to banks yesterday were bemused by the fact that they had been told an account had been suspended when no such account existed.
Richard Leonard, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Martha&rsquos Vineyard Savings Bank, said the scam had previously targeted other communities all over the country.
And the calls appear also to come from all over the country.
“I don't know exactly how the [scammers&rsquo] technology works, but I'm told they use VOI [Voice Over Internet] protocols to mask the real originating number,” he said.
So if people use the caller ID or redial functions to ring back, they either get no answer, or connect to an individual or business who has nothing to do with the fraudsters.
“If the call hits an answering machine, rather than a live person, they hang up,” Mr. Leonard said.
“Unfortunately, this sort of thing is becoming commonplace. People should remember no bank will ever contact a customer and seek information they already have.”