Central State: No security breach

Published 9:27 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

Central State Bank’s computer systems have not been breached or compromised in any way, a spokesman for the bank said this morning.

Some Central State Bank customers in Calera and Pelham fell victim to a phone scam last weekend, which caused the bank to temporarily lower limits on debit card transactions to $1,000 a day and ATM transactions to $200 a day.

However, the phone calls, placed by an automated service of some kind, did not target Central State customers, said Shane Schroeder, senior vice president at Central State.

Rather, the calls were made randomly to residents in Calera, Pelham and portions of Alabaster. The scammers simply used Central State’s name in trying to perpetrate their fraud, he said.

“They were calling people with phone numbers starting with 668 and 620,” Schroeder said.

City of Calera and City of Pelham police departments, along with officials from the ABI, FBI and Secret Service, are investing the calls, part of a scam known as “phishing.”

Central State Bank officials began receiving calls from its customers last Friday evening, who reported receiving the automated calls.

“There has been no breach in any part of our information system,” Schroeder said. “No computer, no portion of our security system — nothing — has been penetrated. These people were just phishing, trying to get someone to give them their information. They were simply using our name to try to get that information.”

To complicate matters, the phishing incident occurred at the same time Central State Bank officials were notified by Visa that some of its debit cards had been compromised.

Schroeder said the two incidents were unrelated. He said Central State was notified by Visa that a system of a third party it has involved in the electronic exchange during transactions, had been compromised.

“We were contacted by Visa and advised to shut those cards down. It was not a leak of Central State information or any breach of Central State information,” Schroeder said.

Bank officials quickly took action to protect its customers.

“We know it is an inconvenience and are doing everything we can to get those customers a new card. However, it’s safer to have a short-term inconvenience than to find your money has been zapped from your account overnight.”

The Visa debit card issue affected customers all over the country, who were customers at many different banks, he said.

“These are two separate incidents. Unfortunately, they happened simultaneously, but that’s an absolute, complete coincidence,” Schroeder said.

He advised never provide personal information over the telephone.

“If you’ve got an account somewhere, the bank has all of your account information. Don’t give out personal information, even if a human calls you. Just don’t ever give our your personal information over the telephone. If you think a call is legitimate, go to the bank yourself and talk to someone you trust,” Schroeder said. “Electronic fraud is the way people rob banks now.”

Central State customers who received one of the phishing calls and provided information are asked to call the bank immediately at 668-0711 or call 1-800-264-5578 to cancel your debit card.