Consumer advocates regularly report on the insidious nature of thieves who use trickery to gain access to credit card accounts. No sooner do security warnings gain momentum then the perpetrators of these schemes come along with a new scam. As a way of educating my readers, I will be providing the specifics of each new threat as I become aware of them. The scenarios I share may be just one variation on the theme with modifications made to suit the specific situation. Crooks will use any hoax that is profitable. The situations that follow have been around for years but bear repeating.
Bogus Credit Company Calls: Crooks fake a legitimate inquiry about a suspicious purchase or activity on your account to gain access to your credit. Here’s how it works:
You get a phone call from someone claiming to be from your credit card company that suspicious charges have shown up on your account. The caller provides you with a phone number to call to report the activity and to clear the fraudulent charges. If you make the call, you’ll be asked by the bogus agent to provide your credit card number, the three-digit security code from the back of the card and the account password – all the information needed to begin making charges with your credit card.
A variation on the theme is when an automated voice message is left on your phone, claiming to be from your bank, notifying you of a fraud attempted against your account. You’re instructed to ‘press one’ for a customer service representative. If you take the bait, you’ll be asked for the sensitive information that is key to the success of the scam.
Text Message Scams: The latest scheme to trick consumers into giving financial information is via text messages. Here’s what to look out for:
A text message is sent to your mobile phone stating that your credit card has been deactivated your account and instructs you to call a local number to reactivate it. The number claims to be to your bank’s service department. You will then be asked for your personal information in order to reactivate the card.
What consumers need to know– First, consumers need to become savvier about the simple ways crooks can steal their stuff. State and federal officials, financial experts and bankers suggest the following ways to protect yourself:
- Never give out personal information over the phone to a stranger that calls, regardless of who they claim they are.
- Banks and other financial institutions will never need you to provide your account information – they already have it.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call about credit card charges and have doubts about the caller's legitimacy, hang up and call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card; never use a phone number provided to you by strangers over the phone.
- Never provide your mobile number for contest entries or other marketing purposes
- Never respond to a message, by text, email or phone, requesting account or personal information.
If you suspect that you have revealed sensitive information in a phishing or smishing scam, immediately contact your bank or credit card company, if applicable, and monitor their bank statements, credit card bills and credit reports to watch for suspicious activity. Phishing and smishing are criminal acts that a state’s attorney general isn’t authorized to investigate. Consumers should file a complaint with the FTC: http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm. Federal law enforcement monitors complaints filed through the FTC.
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