Tuesday, March 2, 2010


There are more people on University of Maryland's campus on a given school day than who are permanent residents in my hometown county.

So you never would think it would be the target of a phishing scam.

I got a call to my cell phone yesterday morning that went something like this, "Hello, this is the National Bank of said county. Your account with us has been blocked. To remove the block, please call us back at this number."

Interesting. I closed my account with the National Bank in middle school. And I didn't have a cell phone in middle school.

Called the bank, called the police. Did NOT call that number back. Then called my credit card, called my actual bank to report it and put alerts on all my accounts.

Several hours of round robin games of telephone, the police called me back this morning. The FBI is now investigating a phishing scam in my county, where they believe someone got a hold of a "do not call list" and for some reason is targeting the area, which is how they got my cell phone number. The National Bank was just a conscience.

My dad put it perfectly. "It's such a shame that people would waste such incredible talent on something like this," he told me during one of our many phone conversations these past 36 hours.

So bizarre that such a condensed, rural area was targeted, but it's also terrifying to think about. Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. This is way beyond Ocean's Eleven. For example, two hackers in San Francisco were just picked up for their phone phishing scheme with Toyota customers, The Washington Post reported yesterday.

If you receive any weird automated phone messages or texts, DO NOT CALL THE NUMBER BACK. According to the police, it establishes a connection with the hacker as a valid number. Be careful with emails too, some criminals will copy and paste actual bank or other promotional email alerts for a hacking blast. AOL had this happen a few weeks ago. Check the return email address to make sure it's legit.

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