Fort Smith Police Investigate Credit Card Phishing Scam

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The Fort Smith Police Department is working alongside local banks after more than a dozen people in the River Valley filed reports of fraudulent charges on their accounts within the last two weeks.

One of those victims was business owner Redd Rahman.

"I pulled up my account on my computer at home to pay some online bills and I checked my account before I started paying bills," Rahman said. "The very first thing I noticed was a debit from the day before that I never even made."

Police said the people responsible for the phishing scam are from Miami and used a rental car to travel to the stores where transactions were made.

"What we've seen is a group that made various transactions at our local Walmarts, Central Mall, convenience stores, liquor stores, and we've had over the last 15 days," Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, Fort Smith Police Department said. "We've had about 13 of those where the people's accounts that were compromised; they never lost possession of those cards."

For victims like Rahman, that one swipe from scammers has led to a much bigger hassle.

"That's extremely upsetting," Rahman said. "This was my business account. This account is associated with my business and my livelihood. It's associated with how I earn my money, where my money is and how I maintain my life and take care of my family."

Police said they are unsure how the scammers obtained the account information.

"We don't know how," Grubbs said. "We don't know if it's been through a transaction locally, a transaction through the internet or how this information was obtained. Phishing is one way that people's accounts are obtained.

Rahman said he now knows it can happen to anyone.

"I've heard about scams like this, but my mentality was always that I would be safe because they hack into the accounts of rich people, people with a lot of money," Rahmam said. "I don't have a lot of money and they hacked into my account. That opened my eyes. No one is safe."

Rahman said his one piece of advice is to pay attention to your bank accounts.

"Be extremely cautious," Rahman said. "Maybe I'll go back to putting my money in my mattress."

The executive vice-president of Arvest said if you believe you may be a victim of the phishing scam, contact your bank immediately.

"Those folks at your financial institution, they're gonna know exactly how to walk you through the steps you're going to need to get your money back," Gaye Wilcox said.

Another way to protect yourself is by making sure your card has a chip.

"If you are a customer of a financial institution and you don't have a chip card, it would be a good idea to reach out to them," Wilcox said. "The chip cards, they're gonna do more for you as far as protection. The way that they work is really the most secure card they have."

While police are investigating those responsible for the scam, they said banks are helping victims get their money back.

"What we're seeing with a majority of these reports, the banking institutions are working very well with these victims," Grubbs said. "Once it's clearly established this is fraud, they're putting the money back into these peoples' accounts. We will be working on behalf of these banking institutions to make an arrest."