Telephone Phishing Scam

November 5, 2007

I heard about a credit card telephone scam recently that was quite well done and easy to fall for. The thieves sometimes identify themselves as from Visa and sometimes from Mastercard.

Here’s how it works…..

You answer your phone and the person calling you says they’re from the "Security and Fraud Department at VISA (or Mastercard)". They even tell you their badge number.

They say your account has been tagged for an unusual purchase pattern and they’re calling to verify it. [Now that has a real ring of truth. I’ve had my credit card company verify purchases in the past.] They even have the name of the bank your card is issued from.

They ask if you purchased an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a company in Arizona. Naturally, you say ‘no’. [Note – this is one of the few times you get to say anything.]

The caller will then tell you you’ll get a refund issued before your next statement. They say the credit will be sent to (reads your address) and asks if that’s correct. So you say ‘yes’.

This is starting to establish a pattern of trust and believability because up to now, the caller knows your credit card number, the bank issuing it and your address.

The caller goes on to say they’ll be starting a fraud investigation and if you have any questions, you should call the 800 number on the back of your card and ask for ‘Security’. You’ll also be given a six digit reference number to use if you call.

So by now you figure this is legit and maybe you’re even looking at the back of your credit card for that 800 phone number. The thief is just about to set  the hook on this phishing scam.

So far, you haven’t provided any information a thief could use and the caller seems to know all about your card and is doing his best to help you with a fraudulent charge. You’re just a little rattled thinking your number has been stolen and grateful that the "Security and Fraud Department" is on the ball.

The one last thing the caller says is that he needs to verify you have actual possession of your card. He’ll ask you to look at the back and read off the 3 security numbers that are usually in the upper right corner on the back. You think that sounds reasonable and read them to him. He will tell you that you’re correct and thank you for verifying it. Then tell you to call if you have any questions. Good-bye – have a nice day.

Presto – you’ve been scammed.

Many times thieves get your name, addredd and card number. They’ll even know the issuing bank but unless they have posession of the card, they won’t know the security code on the back. Once they have this code, they can order anything online – it’s just like holding your card in their hot little hands.

When you get your next statement, you just may find you now have a $497.99 charge for that anti-telemarketing device along with a lot of other charges for things you never ordered.

Your credit card issuer will NEVER ask you for any numbers. If they call you to verify a charge, they already know they’re talking to you and they won’t ask you to verify any numbers. They’ll just ask if you made that charge. Never give out any information over the phone to anyone.

A classic ploy for telephone phishers/scammers is to tell you some kind of alarming news. That gets your brain side-tracked and keeps you from thinking normally. Then when they ask you to verify information, you just blurt it out. If you keep your wits about you and refuse to ‘verify’, the next step the scammer will usually do is to threaten to shut down all your financal accounts. You think your bank would really do that to you knowing full well there’s another bank on the corner you can switch to?

Never give any stranger such information as:

  • Social Security number
  • PIN number
  • Security number on the back of your credit card
  • Driver’s license number
  • Bank account number
  • Credit card number
  • Password
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Birth date

When agressive sales people (even honest ones) call on the phone and shoot questions at you, we have a tendency to answer them. They start off with, "How are you today?" just to get you started answering. Next thing you know, they’ll ask if you rent or own, how much your mortgage is, yada yada. It’s a sales techinique. If you wouldn’t tell a stranger on the street this type of thing, don’t tell someone who calls or emails either. 



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