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Phishing scam hits customers of Miss. banks

June 7, 2012

By R.J. MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News

Last week, Randy Burchfield, vice president of corporate marketing for BancorpSouth, got a cell phone call saying his debit card had been deactivated and he needed to enter his pin to fix the problem.
“It had all the trappings of being what I thought it was,” Burchfield said. “But I didn’t react. It sounded suspicious. I called our call center, and they immediately told me the call was not legit.”

Burchfield is one of many Mississippians recently blanketed in a statewide phishing scam seeking bank account information from customers of BancorpSouth, Renasant and Community Banks.

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley issued a consumer alert on Wednesday advising customers and non-customers to be aware of the problem.

“These calls came from a variety of numbers, including private numbers, and asked consumers to give information including their debit card expiration dates and other confidential information in order to ‘re-instate’ or ‘validate’ your debit card,” Presley said. “Consumers who gave out any of their information should immediately contact their bank.”

Presley also said in the alert his office plans to share all complaints and information with the Federal Trade Commission and Attorney General Jim Hood’s office.

John Oxford, director of external affairs of Renasant Bank, said the scam appears extremely well organized and is probably not originating locally.

“We know that it’s pretty widespread in Mississippi and not targeted at any specific bank,” Oxford said. “It’s extremely random. They have some type of call system using certain algorithms, and they’re playing the odds on customers having an account at one of the major banks in the area, which in North Mississippi are Renasant and BancorpSouth. We know it’s random because customers are reporting getting calls for pins by banks they don’t even use.”

The calls started about Memorial Day and have been widespread across the state, including some in Starkville.

“We’ve seen in the past that (criminals) will use a weekend or holiday period because people are traveling and don’t want to be without their bank cards,” Burchfield said. “They’re more likely to give over information and not think about it.”

Burchfield said BancorpSouth customers with questions should call the bank’s INFOLINE at 888-797-7711.

“It’s critical that consumers not respond to those types of calls,” Burchfield said. “As long as they’re getting information, they’re going to keep calling, ... texting or emailing.”

Phishing scams are a national trend and are designed to “prey on trusting customers,” Oxford said.

“Customers should never give out their pin over phone, especially if the person calls them,” he said. “And never give out a pin number over email. If you believe you have been a victim of a phishing attempt, please contact your financial services institution immediately.”   

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