Credit Cards

Credit Card Fraud Is Up: Here’s How to Protect Yourself

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When times are hard, those who prey on the financially stressed seem to multiple. Unfortunately, the current global economic situation has created a ripe breeding ground for credit card fraud. According to the Wall Street Journal, attempted credit card fraud was up 35% in April, in terms of dollar value. That compared to the same time period a year ago. The good news is that most of the fraud was caught before scammers could get away with anything.

As always, criminals are innovating new ways to procure your information. Sure, they still do things the old fashion way too — buying black market lists from data breaches. However, they have developed some new tricks too. The WSJ tells the story of one man who was cold-called by someone claiming to be his credit card’s fraud department.

From the Wall Street Journal story:

Anton Hinton got a phone call in late April from someone claiming to represent JPMorgan Chase & Co. The caller, who knew Mr. Hinton’s full name, email address and the last four digits of his account, said his debit-card number had been stolen and needed to be frozen.

The caller told Mr. Hinton to set up a digital wallet to make purchases until Chase could ship a new card to his home in Cleveland. While on the call, he got an email, ostensibly from Chase, with a one-time activation code to set up the digital wallet.

After he hung up, Mr. Hinton saw more than $300 in purchases had been made in Florida.

Protect Your Codes

Most banks and institutions won’t call you out of the blue. Even if they do, they definitely won’t ask you for any “one-time codes” that may have been emailed or texted to you. While you may have forgotten about it, you probably set up those codes to prevent anyone else from accessing your accounts. So now scammers are trying to figure out new ways to get those codes — namely, by directly asking you for them.

Call Back

If you get a call from your financial institution, tell them you’ll call them back. Then go directly to their website to make sure you are calling the right number. If the call is legit, you’ll be able to reconnect. If the call is a scam, you’ll know pretty quickly. One of the problems you might face right now is increased call volume. Lots of folks are struggling. Plenty of them are tying up customer service reps with requests for payments deferrals or inquiring about refund requests. Getting a hold of a real person at your bank is frustrating at the best of times. We certainly wouldn’t call 2020 the “best of times” under any circumstances.

Stay Alert

One of the biggest factors in increased credit card fraud is that we simply aren’t paying attention. With many of us staying at home, barely spending money, it’s easy to stop paying close attention to our credit card statements. After all, you’re barely using it, right? Scammers will try to take advantage of this, and slip in some fraudulent charges if they can. They hope to already have your money before you notice and do anything about it. Even if your credit card company reverses the charges, it’s likely that they will have to eat the cost while the scammer gets away scot-free.

Set Up Alerts

This is always a good idea. However, it’s an extra good idea right now. Set up fraud alerts on your credit accounts. Or identity theft monitoring. Or both. These services will automatically let you know if anything unusual is happening with your credit. It might be a little annoying if you need to perform extra steps to use your card, for example, on a new online shopping site. However, it’s worth the peace of mind.

The Last Word

When the purse strings get tight — as they are for many right now — scammers’ eyes light up. Unfortunately, it’s easier to victimize someone who is already stressed about their financial situation. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Whether you are actively using your credit cards or not, pay attention to your statements. Remember the basic rules of protecting identity theft — banks will never call or email asking for your password, never share an access code if you didn’t request it, and tell your bank you will call them back after verifying the correct number.

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