"Your Account is Locked - Urgent Action Required"

Stay calm - it might just be a compromised account alert scam

Last week, I was scrolling through my email when I saw it — a subject line that said one of my financial accounts was locked.

Of course, I panicked. Money is tight, and I need access to every dollar I have.

So I opened the email, which said there was suspicious activity related to my account and that I needed to click the link and enter my account credentials. If I didn't respond within 24 hours, they'd close my account — for good. The email said this process was designed to help prevent fraudulent purchases.

When I clicked on the link, it opened a webpage that asked for my full account number, user name, and password. I had a weird feeling about it. But I couldn't risk not having access to my money. Besides, the company logo and colors looked like the ones my financial institution uses. The situation looked legit, even if there were a few typos in the email.

It only took a few days to regret my decision. When I tried to use my debit card that's attached to the account, it was declined for insufficient funds. Frustrated, I called my bank's phone number that was on the back of the card. They told me I had a negative balance, and my heart sank.

I reminded them of the email they had sent me and how I'd given them what they needed to avoid this very thing from happening. The representative said, "Mr. Hollis, we don't send out those types of emails to account holders. Let me transfer you to our fraud department."

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After speaking with a fraud team member, Mr. Hollis learned that his account funds had been transferred to another financial institution on the same day he responded to the email. He shared the details of the communication with the representative. The fraud department confirmed that he was indeed a victim of a compromised account alert scam.

Never respond to account alerts sent via email or text. Instead, contact the financial institution directly using the telephone number on your account statement or debit card, or posted on their website.

Fraudsters often use fear to spur their victims to act quickly. They know email, text messages, and phone calls claiming suspicious activity on your account are enough to get your attention. They warn that you could suffer financial loss if you don't act quickly by providing personal data.

Avoid the compromised account alert scam by following these simple tips:

  • Decline any requests for confidential information.
  • Log into your account to see if it's actually locked.
  • Do not follow any links offering to take you to the account page. Access your account using a new browser window.
  • Speak with your financial institution to learn how they normally notify customers of suspicious activity.

If you suspect a compromised account alert scam, report it to your financial institution and the Better Business Bureau. You can also report spam texts by copying the message and forwarding it to your mobile carrier at 7726 (SPAM). Doing so could help put an end to these scams.