Fraud and Identity Theft: The Pretext Call

by Washington Federal Team on September 25, 2011

Washington Federal is committed to protecting you and your finances from fraud and identity theft. This is the first blog in a four-part series on fraud, identity theft and swindles. It is our goal to educate you on these various situations and to ensure that you are prepared with the proper steps should you find yourself the victim of fraud or identity theft.

Fraud and Identity TheftOverview of a Pretext Call

Pretexting is the act of inventing a scenario (the pretext) to engage the targeted victim in divulging information or performing actions that he/she would be unlikely to do under normal circumstances. One of the more common pretexting acts is the pretext call.

The pretext call can be directed at the client or the bank. When conducting a pretext call to a client, the criminal impersonates a law enforcement officer, bank officer, IRS agent, FDIC official or insurance investigator. When conducting a pretext call to the bank, the con artist impersonates the client. The goal in both cases is to obtain personal and account information that may be used to steal the client’s identity, his bank accounts or other nefarious goals. Sometimes the pretext call is merely the prelude to a more sophisticated swindle such as the bank examiner swindle or the wire transfer swindle.

How To Protect Yourself

Be suspicious of any phone call initiate by a “bank officer” that requires personal or account information. No regulatory agency, law enforcement agency, or bank will ever initiate a call to a client and ask them to provide or confirm personal, non-public information.

Never use call back telephone numbers provided by the caller. Instead, use the bank or agency’s publicly listed telephone number.

If you receive a suspected pretext call, hang up and call the bank or the police using a publicly listed telephone number.

If you receive a pretext call and provided information to the caller, you are now an identity theft victim.

  • Call the bank. We will walk you through the steps necessary to protect your accounts and notify law enforcement.
  • Complete the FTC Identity Theft report, providing copies to law enforcement, the FTC and other policing agencies.
  • File credit alerts with the three major credit bureaus.
  • Close their bank accounts and open new ones.

How We Will Protect You

We always follow the bank’s Telephone Identification protocols, and we never make exceptions, even for known clients.

Pretext callers frequently call a branch other than the one in the client’s community — less chance the Customer Service Representative would recognize the real client’s voice. We are especially cautious of clients calling a branch other than the account branch:

  • We ask extra identification questions (more than the standard 3). We offer to call the client back, but use a phone number already in the bank’s records.
  • If the caller used a Relay Service, we will ask a minimum of five challenge questions.

If we sense hesitancy on the part of the caller or believe that he/she is attempting to intimidate you, we will get a supervisor involved.

If you believe you’ve been the target of a pretext call, we will immediately:

  • Place holds/alerts on the client’s accounts. The con artist could already be calling another branch, hoping that they’ll be less vigilant.
  • Try to contact the client using phone numbers in the bank’s records.
  • Call the account branch. They may have alternative methods to make contact with the client.

We also complete a Security Incident Report to document the event and follow up actions, and we send an electronic copy to the Division Security Officer and the Corporate Security Officer.

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a pretext call or another form of identity theft of fraud, call your bank representative immediately. Your security is our main priority.

Next week: The Bank Examiner Swindle.



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