A new identity theft scheme is targeting Texans and their financial institutions, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Spoof e-mails are directing Amarillo National Bank customers — who have been one of the biggest targets of this latest scam — to call a telephone number and confirm their personal information.

Customers who make the call do not actually reach their hometown banker, but instead end up on the telephone with a scam artist who wants to steal their identity.

This type of scam, also known as “phishing,” typically involves e-mails that falsely appear to have been sent by trusted and well-known institutions, such as large banks or popular Internet-based merchants, such as eBay and PayPal. In the latest twist, however, identity thieves are clearly targeting Texans by posing as trusted local institutions.

The Office of the Attorney General first learned of the Amarillo National Bank scam when its own employees received a series of e-mails with the subject line: “New Message From Amarillo National Bank.” The e-mails read, in part:

We recently reviewed your account, and we suspect an unauthorized ATM based transaction. Therefore as a preventive measure we will temporary limit your access to sensitive features. To ensure that your account is not compromised please call our security center ... and verify your identity to prevent deactivation.

If this is not completed by Dec. 15, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely, as it may have been used for fraudulent purposes.

The message provides a toll-free number for consumers to call and furnish their personal information. However, neither the e-mail nor the telephone number is affiliated with Amarillo National Bank.

Texans should never provide personal information in response to unexpected e-mails or telephone calls, even if they appear to be from a respected local institution, Attorney General Greg Abbott said in recent statement.

The Office of the Attorney General is working with Amarillo National Bank and Texas banking groups to remind consumers that no legitimate institution sends e-mails or places calls to their clients threatening to suspend their accounts unless they immediately provide personal information.

Texans who receive these types of e-mails or telephone calls should simply delete the message or hang up on the caller.

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