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Utah consumers targeted by 'Wells Fargo' text scheme

FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2012, file photo, a man walks past a Wells Fargo branch in Philadelphia.
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2012, file photo, a man walks past a Wells Fargo branch in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah customers of Wells Fargo Bank beware, scammers are out to get your personal account information using fake text messages to your smartphone.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection this week announced the office had received a report that scam texts purporting to be from Wells Fargo Bank are being sent to consumers via their mobile devices. The “crucial” account alert text tells the recipient to call a phone number that leads to a recorded message claiming the person’s Wells Fargo bank account was compromised and the bank needs to confirm important personal information.

The agency said the recorded message then prompts consumers to enter the information so their ATM card can be reissued. The phony message asks for the customer's Wells Fargo ATM card number, pin number and ATM card expiration date, along with the three-digit security code on the back of ATM card, billing ZIP code, the last known checking account balance and Social Security number.

According to Wells Fargo, this texting scam has been reported in neighboring Western states but had not been reported previously in Utah.

What consumers should do to combat imposter scams
  1. Never give out any personal or bank account information to anyone over the phone, including confirming the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  2. Anyone who tells you to wire money, pay with a gift card or send cash is a scammer. Always.
  3. If you suspect potential fraud regarding a text or call from someone who claims to be from a known business or government agency, hang up the phone and call the established contact numbers published for the real company or government agency.

"It's an industry thing more than a Wells Fargo thing," said Wells Fargo spokesman Tony Timmons. Similar scams have been employed targeting customers for various financial institutions across the country, he said.

Customers who receive unexpected calls or text messages seeming to be from Wells Fargo, but are unsure of the legitimacy, should contact the bank using the number on the back of their ATM card, he said.

"The worst thing you can do is respond to those folks because once you put that information out there, it's not protected," Timmons said. "If there is any question whatsoever, we really suggest our customers just pull out your debit card and call the number on the back. It's an easy way to solve the problem."

He said if you receive a suspicious phone call requesting your information or access to your account, hang up and contact Wells Fargo directly at 1-800-TO-WELLS (1-800-869-3557) — the number on the back of your debit/credit card. Wells Fargo customers who receive a fraud text message and click on the link or provide information via telephone should call 1-866-867-5568 immediately, the release stated.

A Utah Division of Consumer Protection investigator called the phone number and entered false information into the keypad. Upon conclusion of the entries, the recorded message informed the investigator that their Wells Fargo ATM card had been reissued, a news release stated. The scheme is an example of what is commonly referred to as an imposter scam in which someone pretends to represent a real entity such as Wells Fargo Bank to dupe consumers into revealing personal account and identity information, officials said.

“This phony text message came across my cellphone and looked so convincing that if I did have a Wells Fargo account, I might have taken the bait,” admitted Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. A major concern for consumers is the prevalence of people who use their smartphones for so many aspects of their lives, making them prey to such a convincing scam, she said.

For more information on how to protect yourself against fraud scams or to file a complaint, visit the Utah Division of Consumer Protection website at consumerprotection.utah.gov.