If You Own a Credit Card or Debit Card, WATCH OUT… The Trickiest Scams Now

Bottom Line/Personal interviews Dr. Audri Lanford on credit card scams: Internet Scambusters #286

Today we have another Special Issue for you. It’s the third cover story article that interviews Audri in Bottom Line/Personal: this one is called “If You Own a Credit Card or Debit Card, WATCH OUT… The Trickiest Scams Now.”

Bottom Line/Personal is an excellent fee-based newsletter that interviews top experts on different topics and presents the latest info to their subscribers (we’ve subscribed for years).

We again asked for and received their permission to share this excellent article with you. Enjoy…

You can find the previous Bottom Line/Personal articles here.

SCAMMED! Don’t Let What Happened To These Victims Happen To You

SCAMMED! What We All Can Learn from These Real-Life Victims


Next, we recommend you check out this week’s issue of Scamlines — What’s New in Scams?

Then, you may want to spend a moment looking at this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:

Identity Theft Criminals: Why They Do It: Interesting info on what makes identity theft criminals steal identities.

Are You At Risk of Airbag Fraud? What you don’t know about airbag fraud can hurt you — or even worse — kill you.

What Tech Geek Dads Want For This Year’s Father’s Day Gift: Father’s Day gifts for techies can easily be found once you know what to look for.

Now, here we go…

If You Own a Credit Card or Debit Card, WATCH OUT…
The Trickiest Scams Now

(Note: we split some of the paragraphs to make this article easier to read. The content, however, has not been changed at all.)

Credit card crooks are becoming more sophisticated. It often takes victims longer to spot today’s complex credit card scams, giving thieves extra time to make fraudulent purchases.

Five of the latest credit card scams today…

Keystroke Loggers

You use your credit card to make a purchase from a reputable Internet retailer. The next time you try to use the card, it is rejected because it has been maxed out.

Many computers are infected with a “keystroke logger,” a type of computer spyware that tracks everything typed into the computer and reports it back to a scammer via the Internet. When an online purchase is made, the scammer is able to obtain the victim’s credit card number.

Victims often download and install keystroke logger spyware without realizing that they are doing so.

Example: Thousands of high-ranking executives across the country recently received email messages that appeared to be official subpoenas from the United States District Court in San Diego. A link embedded in the message offered a copy of the subpoena.

When the recipients clicked on the link to view the subpoena, they unknowingly installed the software that recorded their subsequent keystrokes, including credit card numbers, user IDs and passwords.

Self-defense: Purchase and install an up-to-date Internet security program, such as ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite (877-966-5221) or AVG Internet Security.

Cell Phone Camera Scam

A shopper chats on his/her cell phone near a store’s cash register while you pay for a purchase… or he talks on a cell phone outside a restaurant window while, just inside, you use your credit card to pay for a meal.

Though the bystander appears to be deeply engrossed in his conversation, he actually might be using the camera built into his cell phone to snap digital pictures of your name, your credit card number and the expiration date.

Some cell phones now contain five-megapixel cameras, with sharp enough resolution to snap a legible picture of a credit card even from several feet away.

Self-defense: Be aware of people around you whenever your credit card is out of your wallet, particularly if someone nearby is holding a cell phone. Conceal your card under your hand, or at least turn the card over.

Card Switch

You pay for a restaurant meal with your credit card. When the waiter returns, you sign the receipt and slip the card back into your wallet, same as always.

But the next time you use the credit card, it is declined. When you examine the card, you realize that it is not your credit card, but rather a similar-looking card with someone else’s name on it.

Unscrupulous restaurant and retail employees occasionally carry a few old credit cards, perhaps ones stolen from previous customers that have been canceled by their owners.

When a customer pays with a card that is similar in appearance, the scammer pockets the new card and substitutes the old one. If the victim fails to notice, the thief goes on a shopping spree.

Self-defense: Always double-check that the credit card returned to you really is your card.


Some high-tech scammers working in restaurants, gas stations and other establishments have small electronic boxes known as “skimmers” hidden near the cash register.

Skimmers steal the information — name, address, telephone number, credit limit, PIN — encoded on credit cards when the cards are swiped through them.

Unlike a conventional credit card scanner, a skimmer is not attached to a phone line or cash register and typically is concealed out of customers’ view.

Self-defense: Try not to let your card out of your sight. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but when it is, pay close attention. That alone may make a scammer less likely to try anything.

Credit Card Fraud “Assistance”

You receive a phone call from someone who identifies himself as a Visa or MasterCard representative. He asks if you authorized a particular purchase (often electronics). You did not.

The representative explains that someone has stolen your credit card number and is running up your bill. “Don’t worry,” the rep says, “I can help you cancel the card and have the fraudulent charges removed from your account.”

This caller does not really work for a credit card company, and your card number has not really been stolen — yet. The caller is a con artist who will ask you to “confirm” your credit card number and perhaps the three-digit code on the back of the card while pretending to help you stop a fictitious thief.

Self-defense: Never divulge your credit card number or the code on the back of your credit card to anyone who phones you, even if he/she claims that you must act fast to protect your account.

Hang up, phone your credit card company’s toll-free number and ask a real credit card company rep to check for the fraudulent charge that the caller mentioned, as well as for any other suspicious activity. If there is any sign of trouble, cancel the card.

Also, check your accounts regularly online for any fraudulent charges.

Credit Card Liability Limits

Fortunately, victims of credit card theft generally are liable for only $50 of the thief’s charges (and banks usually waive even this fee for good customers).

But victims often have to cancel their cards and update any automatic charge arrangements (for Internet service, electronic toll collection, etc.).

That $50 liability limit also applies to ATM and debit cards, though holders of these cards might be liable for up to $500 if they fail to report the card’s disappearance within two business days after they learn of the loss or theft of the card. (Debit and ATM card owners can be held responsible for all losses if they fail to report the theft within 60 days of when a bank statement showing unauthorized charges is mailed.)

Victims also face cash flow problems and bounced-check fees when thieves clean out their bank accounts.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Audri Lanford, PhD, cofounder and coeditor of Scambusters.org, a Web site that informs the public about scams and cons.

Reprinted with the permission of:
Bottom Line Personal
Boardroom Inc.
281 Tresser Blvd.
Stamford, CT 06901

Finally, you can find more info on what to do if your credit card or wallet is stolen on our site.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!