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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 9:54 am

Bank logo on email doesn't make it legit

Frank Gray

I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone in America who isn’t running a scam or who hasn’t been the target of a scam.

Whether it’s the grandma scam or the I-got-mugged-in-a-carpark-in-London scam, or the counterfeit check scam or the IRS on the phone scam, or just plain identity theft, we’ve all been in someone’s cross hairs at some point in the last few years.

A few days ago, I was a target – again – at work, but that’s not unusual. Half the emails I get at work are rackets.

The emails were from banks, telling me that because of increased online attacks targeting their customers, the bank was adding an extra layer of security for customer protection and I was asked to click on a link and provide some information.

If I wasn’t comfortable with that, the email said, I could click on another link and go directly to the bank’s website and search for "fraud information." To get me to respond quickly, the email said I wouldn’t be able to use my card until I had taken this step.

Of course it was a total fraud. I knew because I don’t have an account at Chase Bank or USAA Bank, which serves the military.

But people who do have accounts at any bank might fall for these bogus emails. They’ll say that the email had to be real because it had the bank’s logo on it.

Hey, I can put any bank’s logo on the roof of my car. That’s doesn’t make me a mobile bank branch.

So I called Chase and got a media relations woman named Christine Eholevas. She’s real. She actually works for the bank.

No, she said, Chase – and no other bank – would ever send a customer an email with a link, and never click on a link if you get an email with one.

You’ll end up in some lost land in the internet that looks real but isn’t.

If you do get an email and it appears to be real, just go online and look up the bank’s website yourself or call the bank.

"I can’t say this is new, but they’re getting increasingly sophisticated," Eholevas said. "Before you could spot these easily. They had weird grammar and typos" and used words like "car park," "holiday" instead of "vacation," and "advert" instead of "ad." 

During the Battle of the Bulge, a bunch of German soldiers who spoke English put on American uniforms and went behind the lines and wreaked havoc. They got caught when one of them said he needed petrol, and they were all shot.

Americans don’t use petrol. They speak like Americans. They put gas in their cars and take vacations.

Keep your eye out for these little things. You won’t be able to shoot the scammers, but you’ll be able to head them off.

And when an email says you won’t be able to use your credit card unless you do something, ignore it.

Banks don’t email you and tell you they’re shutting off your card. They just do it. They did it to me on a trip once. I was spending money in several different states and it looked suspicious, so they shut me down.

Fortunately I had a few bucks for gas to get home.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.