Texting scam in Ohio uses welfare smart cards as phishing bait

Scammers are peppering people on public assistance in Ohio with text messages related to their card-accessed accounts, asking them to disclose personal information, the state attorney general's office warns.

The EPPICard is not linked to a bank account or cell phone account. Rather, assistance funds are deposited to the card, which then works like a debit card, said Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Scam texts can be sent to anyone with a cell phone, not just EPPICard recipients. The text message says an EPPICard account has been frozen, telling the receiver to call a number at which they are prompted to give personal account information.

"The text message is being distributed widely in the hopes that you are a card holder, but it's not actually tied to specific accounts," Johnson said. Since the start of May, 10 people have complained to the Attorney General.

"The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will never call or text you and ask for personal information like account numbers so they can be certain that the text is a phishing scam and should disregard it," Johnson said.

A similar EPPICard phishing scam occurred in Georgia in 2008, asking by e-mail for personal information such as account numbers and social security numbers.

The Federal Trade Commission warns phishing scams are designed by Internet fraudsters to obtain personal information. They advise to not click any links in an e-mail or respond when prompted for personal information. Legitimate companies do not ask for information this way.

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