Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Identity Thieves Impersonate Texas Banks

A new identity theft scheme is targeting Texans, particularly those who bank at Amarillo National Bank, a legitimate Texas financial institution. Spoof e-mails are directing Amarillo National Bank customers to call a telephone number and confirm their personal information. Customers who make the call do not actually reach their hometown banker, but instead end up on the telephone with a scam artist who wants to steal their identity.

This type of scam, also known as “phishing,” typically involves e-mails that falsely appear to have been sent by trusted and well-known institutions, such as large banks or popular Internet-based merchants, like eBay and PayPal. In the latest twist, however, identity thieves are clearly targeting Texans by posing as trusted local institutions.

The Office of the Attorney General first learned of the Amarillo National Bank scam when its own employees received a series of e-mails with the subject line: “New Message From Amarillo National Bank.” The e-mails read, in part:
We recently reviewed your account, and we suspect an unauthorized ATM based transaction. Therefore as a preventive measure we will temporary limit your access to sensitive features. To ensure that your account is not compromised please call our security center ... and verify your identity to prevent deactivation.

If this is not completed by Dec 15, 2007, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely, as it may have been used for fraudulent purposes.

The message provides a toll-free number for consumers to call and furnish their personal information. However, neither the e-mail nor the telephone number is affiliated with Amarillo National Bank.

As always, Texans should NEVER provide personal information in response to unexpected e-mails or telephone calls, even if they appear to be from a respected local institution.

The Office of the Attorney General is working with Amarillo National Bank and Texas banking groups to remind consumers that no legitimate institution sends e-mails or places calls to their clients threatening to suspend their accounts unless they immediately provide personal information. Texans who receive these types of e-mails or telephone calls should simply delete the message or hang up on the caller.

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.