Alpine Bank warns of text scams on the rise in Western Slope

Alpine Bank branch in Aspen located at 600 East Hopkins Ave.
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

Something is rotten in the state of Colorado. That one may smile and smile and be a villain … especially along the Western Slope.

Alpine Bank customers, along with other banks in the region, are being subject to what’s called a “brute force attack,” where criminal cyber-gangs are sending massive amounts of fake emails and texts telling consumers their bank accounts have been compromised or locked.

Alpine Bank President Glen Jammaron said that while there has recently been a concentrated amount of these scams reported in the Western Slope, he’s cautioning folks residing in the valley, as well.

“I live in between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and I’ve even gotten the calls myself,” he said. “But it’s happening all across the state and the country to some degree, and for whatever reason, there’s been a particular focus just recently in the last week or so in attacking folks in Colorado’s Western Slope.”

It’s nothing new.

Cyber thieves fool customers into giving their bank account information and/or passwords by clicking on a link to a fake “phishing” website. In this case, Alpine Bank customers are told to either visit a website or call a phone number to speak with a fake customer service representative who asks for login and password information.

As Jammaron explained, it’s not always even necessarily related to Alpine Bank customers or even limited to Alpink Bank itself. “Fraudsters” pick a location, a bank, a community and aggressively hit the area before moving on to the next.

“No legitimate business is ever going to ask you for your password,” he said. “They’re not going to ask you for those kinds of things because that’s not something we would ever do as a valid organization; we’re not going to ask you for your personal information.” 

Jammaron said that all Alpine Bank accounts are safe, and Alpine Bank continues to work with authorities to shut down the fraudulent sites as they come up. The only trouble, Jammaron added, is that many of the sites are hosted from outside of the country, making it difficult to ever fully eliminate the source of the problem.

“When anyone calls us with a complaint, we try to work through what they’ve given them, when they gave it to them, just whatever information they have, so we can shut down accounts or close things down before there’s any fraud activity,” he said. “If you wonder if that’s valid, it’s probably not. And if you have a question, contact your bank directly, not through the links. The best thing to do is just always keep your personal information private.” 

Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra agrees.

She said that while Aspen police haven’t necessarily seen a rise in fraudulent activity, these types of scams are something the police department deals with on a regular basis.

The way many of these scams are designed make it nearly impossible to trace information back to the individuals responsible, often asking for payments through gift cards or Western Union wires, which are nearly impossible to track. That’s why she suggests the best offense is a good defense in these situations.

“Anytime someone’s asking you for money, just pause and assess the situation,” she said. “Clicking on those links is not going to be the way that your bank or any other organization will get in contact with you. It’s always best to stop and call the police, tell us the situation, and get some advice from us to make sure what you’re dealing with is legitimate.”