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Child Support Phishing Scam

Just 72 hours after News 13 broke news of hackers breaking into North Carolina child support accounts created for parents, social service administrators help get the focus of our story single Mom Brandi Owenby her stolen Christmas money back.

North Carolina's Attorney General Roy Cooper has issued a statewide consumer alert warning of hackers texting cell phone users a bogus message that their debit card accounts have been compromised.

Owenby believes she may have received just such a text over a year ago and unknowingly responded and gave her personal account information thinking the text was legitimate from the card company SMIone. The state contracts with a private Visa firm for the SMIOne card. The card is a re-loadable debit account that's used to hold child support payments for parents.  Within hours of our story airing, email discussions between state officials began and Owenby has received her $260 back and a new debit account. But a Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Julie Henry said the agency is aware of victims who have the SMIone card.

"We know at this point of 130 customers that have been impacted by the latest scam," said Henry. "People are being sent a message that indicates something is wrong with their child support payments or with their SMI card."

Henry said this is the second time she knows of an incidence of victimized child support debit card holders who have the SMIone card. Officials with the card company would not respond to requests for comment from News 13. The card company has a contract with the state of North Carolina. The company charges fees similar to other debit cards. Anytime a customer calls for service or to check a balance the company charges a small fee.  Owenby told News 13 of the charges during her investigation into the hacking case. The company has reimbursed her for those amounts as well.

Jackson county Social Services director Bob Cochran is responsible for the quick response in getting Brandi her money back. He immediately notified department officials in Raleigh about the crime. The State Bureau of Investigations is also involved.

"It's a blessing for me because I really didn't know what I was going to do," said Brandi. "They, the department, took action and got it done. All I wanted was my money back. I just hope it doesn't happen to any other parent out there."

By Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReports


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