Two East Texas financial institutions took swift — but different — action this week to protect their customers’ identities after threats by identity thieves.
Longview police said there have been 160 reported cases of identity fraud in the city since April 1.
East Texas Professional Credit Union notified hundreds of customers Tuesday that their debit cards were canceled as a precautionary measure.
Austin Bank notified the Better Business Bureau on Thursday that many of the bank’s customers said they received recorded telephone messages asking for their card information, said Mechele Mills, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas.
The mass-recorded calls told customers their debit or credit card was compromised and instructed them to call a phone number to give their card information for verification.
“A bank would never do that,” Mills said. “A bank will never ask you to give card information over the telephone.”
The East Texas Professional Credit Union sent an email that told customers “... we discovered that one of the debit cards on your account was used at a common point of compromise, and we believe that your card information is at risk.”
The email went on to say, “Due to the high frequency of the fraud discovered, we have taken steps to protect you from theft by canceling the debit card on your account.”
East Texas Professional Credit Union managers would not comment on the customer emails or security threats, but two credit union customers contacted the News-Journal after receiving Tuesday’s email.
“My first concern was — was it real,” said Katie Wesson, who said she has been a credit union customer for more than 10 years.
Wesson said that, after contacting the credit union, she was told the financial institution took quick action after learning as many as 500 cards may have been compromised.
Wesson said her card was canceled, and she was told by a bank spokeswoman the reason for the mass email, rather than a letter, was to “nip it in the bud.”
While having the debit card deactivated was inconvenient, Wesson said, she was relieved the credit union took quick action.
“I knew why they did it,” she said. “And at least I had notification.”
The email instructed customers to come to the credit union office on Loop 281 for the bank to process a new card.
“They instructed customers to come to the bank,” Mills said. “That’s the right way to deal with this.”
Austin Bank issued a statement Thursday concerning the telephone attempts to defraud its customers.
In the statement, Linda Douglas, Austin Bank’s director of retail banking said, “We are very protective of our customers and the information they have entrusted with us.
“Austin Bank, like most banks, will never solicit debit card information from customers by telephone, email or text,” Douglas said.
“Customers should never respond to a request of this nature. If they have concerns, they should contact the bank directly.”
Douglas said Austin Bank continually monitors activity for potential fraud, and if a pattern is identified, the bank works with its card processor to immediately enhance the fraud protection with new rules to deter further fraud.