Scammers attempt to access F&M Bank accounts through fraudulent texts

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, August 22, 2023

SALISBURY — Last week, several F&M Bank clients received fraudulent text messages attempting to obtain account information.

While no one’s money was stolen, a bank executive said Monday, scams are getting more sophisticated.

“Some of our clients are receiving text messages claiming that someone is trying to charge their account and asking for a response,” said Steve Fisher, the F&M Bank chairman and CEO. “This will then prompt a phone call that is not from F&M Bank.”

Fisher said that scammers are fine-tuning their grift using modern techniques.

“We have seen these over the last couple of years,” Fisher said. “They typically use things like Amazon, (saying), did you buy this item or just have someone add to your Netflix? We have seen that going for larger corporations. Now, they are targeting smaller corporations.”

Fisher said that, in all likelihood, a malicious actor obtained a phone list and recognized that those numbers were from this region of North Carolina because of the area code.

“They will blast multiple banks in this area,” Fisher said. “All they are doing is blanketing the phone list they have, knowing if those banks are the larger banks in that area, they will get some hits.”

While scammers” sophisticated communications might lend to the scammers’ credibility, Fisher said that certain red flags would usually give them away — a false sense of urgency.

“They always use a sense of urgency,” Fisher said. “Something has happened to your account, and you have to act now. If you see that sense of urgency, stop.

“The key is that sense of urgency. They want you to act emotionally and quickly without thinking.”

Fisher added that bankers won’t communicate with clients using that language.

“That’s not how banks talk,” Fisher said.

Another red flag that clients should observe is requests for personal information.

“If the bank is reaching out to you, they don’t need the credentials because they have them,” Fisher said.

Conversely, if a client is the one who calls the bank, they may be asked to provide information to the bank to verify they are who they say that they are, but that detail transfer should be a one-way street.

The latest scam efforts were unsuccessful, at least for F&M clients, despite a few text recipients submitting their information to the scammers.

“We were notified, and we had some folks who did share credentials,” Fisher said. We intercepted their accounts very quickly before perpetrators could access (them).”

While the latest scam efforts for F&M Bank clients involved text messages which prompted a phone call, previous iterations took message recipients to a fraudulent web page created to appear authentic.

“You would click, and it would take you over to a place to enter your credentials,” Fisher said.

With those efforts being unsuccessful, Fisher said the current scammers will likely move on but that new actors will inevitably replace them in the future.