Consumer Reports is a known issuer of credit fraud warnings. On April 28, 2015, a new warning came into effect. It covered a fresh credit card scam, where criminals would steal information over the phone. It seems far-fetched, but the method they use is believable.
There are many credit frauds that work over the phone. Some start-up by saying, “It’s your captain calling…” and go on about how you won a cruise. Others offer free trips to Disneyland, exotic travel destinations, and more. These are all obvious scams, but there is one key difference with this one:
The caller has your credit card information!
Businesses contact clients by phone from time to time. It is not far-fetched to believe your credit card company would call you. This is especially true if your card company catches wind of a potential identity theft attempt. But, if the company calling you is really a fraudster, your credit card information could end up in the wrong hands.
It starts with a phone call …
Ring, ring, ring.
Your credit card company is calling…
“Hey, this is Jack. I’m calling from MasterCard’s security department. This relates to an alert that got placed on your account due to suspicious activity.” Then, Jack talks about a made-up transaction. He says, “Our systems feel it’s possible that you did not authorize this payment. We flag accounts from time to time when suspicious transactions come up. Our system is not bulletproof, and there is room for error. Was this particular transaction authorized by you?”
“Of course not!”
“We are going to open a fraud investigation about the matter. The case reference number you will use is XXXXXX, and we might have to call you back in the next day or two for more information. If you ever have any questions, you are welcome to call the toll-free number on the back of your card. Now I need to verify you are the cardholder and have possession of your card. Could I get the three-digit security code of your card with the last four digits XXXX please?”
As the caller has your credit card number, there is no reason to think it’s a scam. The caller built a slight rapport while discussing the fraudulent activity. Your credit card number was on hand, and there is a good chance the caller also has your full name and mailing address.
With so few reasons to think it could be a scam, it’s easy to conceive that this trick would pull many victims. That is exactly why the Consumer Reports and the FTC jumped on it and warned the public.
Identity thieves are not stupid. They can access databases full of the credit card information. Some even have lists of thousands of credit cards. This includes the card numbers and information on the cardholder. The thief that calls you could get your information through a privacy breach at a trusted business.
For example, the credit card information of 40 million Target customers got stolen back in 2015. The people who gained access to this information now have a lot of details about your credit cards. If they are just one security code short, you could see why they would try this type of phone call.
If the caller has your credit card information and details on you, then all that’s left to get is the security code. It is on the back of your card, so they have to call you to get this final piece. That does not deter the criminals from attempting to defraud you because it’s easy to pull off the scam. Why wouldn’t someone believe it’s real, especially when the caller has so much information on them?
There are specific security measures you must take when your credit card company calls you. And, it all begins with not giving them any confidential information. This includes your full name and address and your credit card numbers. If it is your credit card company calling, they will not need the information from you.
If the caller requests information, say you will call back to discuss the matter. There is nothing wrong with informing the caller that you are doing so as a security measure. When you hang up, call the security department of your credit card company. Then, explain how you got a phone call about suspicious activity on your account. Let them know that you wanted to double-check this was a legitimate call.
The credit card company will either not know what you are talking about or continue discussing the matter. If the latter, since you called them, there is nothing wrong with giving your information up over the phone.
The power of word of mouth is what can save people from becoming victims. There is no way to prevent this type of crime, but there would be no victims if everyone knew about it. As it is easy for thieves to get other parts of your credit card information, there is a good chance someone you know will get a similar call. Tell them about the scam now, before it’s too late.
There are endless phone scams where criminals try to steal your credit card information. It would not make sense to go all out every time you hear of a new one. The problem is that this method is very easy to fall for because the caller has your credit card information. When the caller does a perfect impersonation, even some smartest people in the world will get victimized.
There are endless credit card scams that run by phone. The dialogue used here is just one example of how an identity thief might steal your information. The scripts they use are much more believable, and talking over the phone also creates a rapport with the caller. With it all sounding so official and real, there’s no surprise why so many have already become a victim.
Report the phone call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is important that they know of all the different ways criminals are trying to defraud people. By letting the FTC know, the public will get a security warning if the scheme is dangerous enough.
Call 877-FTC-HELP or go to ftc.gov/complaint.
It’s important that all different approaches get made public!