An untold number of cell phone users are receiving unsolicited text messages saying that their U.S. Bank account has been closed because of "unusual activity," in what the Minneapolis-based financial institution said today is a "phishing" scam to try and steal vital personal information.

"We would never ask a customer to place their personal information in jeopardy by contacting them and asking them to divulge it over the phone, via email or text messages," U.S. Bank spokesman Steve Dale said this morning. "If customers have any questions or concerns, they should contact their bank through traditional and proven channels, such as calling their branch or using a trusted customer service number."

The state's Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division said this afternoon that it shut down two of the phone numbers used in the U.S.  Bank phishing scam and a third number was in the process of being disconnected.

 

One of the bogus text messages reads: "Dear US Bank member, your account with us is closed due to unusual activity, call us at 13365100853." Another says: "You need to verify your US Bank acct (unusual activity), call at 8664330632."

According to 800notes.com, an Internet chat board that collects reports from the public about suspicious activity tied to various forms of electronic communication, people receiving these messages have various cell phone providers and aren't necessarily U.S. Bank customers.

"I am a Sprint customer and received the same text yesterday and am not a US Bank customer," wrote one person who posted on the 800notes.com chat board.

Another wrote: "Apparently this has to be some sort of hacker who has gotten these numbers in order to phish you for information. As always do not give anyone your account numbers or SSN. If they dont know who you are, then dont tell them. Just delete the call from you text message."

A U.S. Bank customer service representative told one of the text message recipients, who has Verizon cell phone service, that the bank has received many calls just this morning about the scam.

"It's a fraud," the representative said, advising the customer to not respond to the mystery sender.

Dale said that "virtually all financial institutions" are targeted by these types of scams. He encouraged the public to "be aware of any type of things like this, especially around the holidays, when people are more busy. You're flipping plastic to make the holidays bright. ... Be a little more diligent as far as checking your accounts, that can be helpful."

Dale said that his bank's customers can learn more about how to protect their accounts by visiting www.usbank.com, going to the bottom-right corner and clicking on "Online Security: Learn to protect yourself."

Star Tribune staff writer Pamela Huey contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482