If you're hesitant to pick up your phone when you see an unknown number (or a familiar number), that's understandable. Fraudulent phone calls have reached an all-time high in recent years and scammed Americans out of billions of dollars. But no matter how savvy you think you are, it helps to be aware of the newest tricks criminals are using before you fall victim to them. One new scam tactic, reported by Lifehacker, uses your bank's real phone number to encourage you to surrender your PIN.
It starts with the scammers calling your phone claiming to be your bank. They explain that someone has attempted to use your card in a faraway location. When you tell them it wasn't you who made the purchase, they'll claim to block the transaction and ask for your member number. This isn't an obvious red flag: Unlike an account number or PIN, the scam artists can't use your member number alone to rip you off.
But they can use this number to reset your bank account password and trigger a verification code text that's sent to your cellphone—which is what happened to Gunst. The callers say they're sending a “verification PIN” and ask you to read it back to them. Because the text is a legitimate code sent from your actual bank, it's easy to fall for the ruse, but what you're actually doing is providing the scammers with the information they need to change your bank login information.
The final step of the scam is where Gunst noticed something wasn't right. The callers ask for your PIN, claiming they need it to block the number while actually hoping to get the final piece of the puzzle needed to infiltrate your account. Incoming calls claiming to be from your bank should always be treated with caution, but a caller asking you to share your PIN over the phone is a good indication you should hang up. If you suspect the call is legitimate, tell them you'll call back so you know you're in contact with a number you can trust—a real bank employee won't try to stop you.
Want to feel safer the next time you answer the phone? Here are some more scam tricks to be aware of.