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FROM STAFF REPORTS

HORSESHOE BAY — Authorities are warning residents to avoid a scam targeting ATM cards or bank accounts in which thieves use automated cell phone calls in an attempt to steal private information.

“We’re starting to see an increase in the number of scams. We’ve already seen Internet scams, mail scams. We’ve had some new ones lately that seem to be coming in on cell phones,” Horseshoe Bay Police Chief Bill Lane said. “I had several members of the community contact me to tell me they got calls to say their ATM cards or bank accounts had been compromised.”

A successful scam artist relies on trust and a victim’s willingness to continue with a number of automated prompts.

“You’ll get a pre-recorded message that tells you either your bank card or your bank account has been cancelled or compromised, and they’ll ask you to dial ‘1’ to get that resolved,” he said. “Once you dial that number, there will be a number of questions trying to determine your identity, so they can use that information against you to scam you.”

The call requests detailed information such as date of birth, Social Security number and bank account data.

“Banks or other entities don’t do business like this over the telephone,” Lane said. “Don’t ever trust the caller if that call comes to you.”

Residents should discontinue the fraudulent phone calls altogether.

“The way I would handle the phone call is hang up,” the chief said. “If you get (requests like this) on the Internet, notify your local law enforcement, so we can be alerted to this and put out advisories to the community.”

Investigators also warn residents to beware of other recent scams involving fake prize or lottery awards dependent on advanced payments.

“If it sounds too good to be true. It is,” Lane said. “Don’t fall for it.”

editor@thepicayune.com