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Credit Card Scam Warning
Netlore Archive: Forwarded email warns of a credit card scam in which con artists request the 3-digit code on the back of a Visa or MasterCard to 'verify' it

Description: Email flier
Status: Worth heeding
Circulating since: Nov 2003
Analysis: See below

Email example contributed by J. Hamilton, 5 Dec. 2003:

We all receive emails all the time regarding one scam or another; but last week I REALLY DID get scammed! Both VISA and MasterCard told me that this scam is currently being worked throughout the Midwest, with some variance as to the product or amount, and if you are called, just hang up.

My husband was called on Wednesday from "VISA" and I was called in Thursday from "MasterCard". It worked like this: Person calling says, "This is Carl Patterson and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card issued by 5/3 bank. Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona?"

When you say "No". The caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?"

You say, "Yes". The caller continues..."I will be starting a fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 800 number listed on your card 1-800-VISA and ask for Security. you will need to refer to this Control #". Then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?" Caller then says he "needs to verify you are in possession of your card. Turn the card over. There are 7 numbers; first 4 are 1234(whatever) the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are in possession of the card. These are the numbers you use to make internet purchases to prove you have the card. Read me the 3 numbers." Then he says "That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions? Don't hesitate to call back if you do."

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA security dept. told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 WAS put on our card.

Long story made short...we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card and they are reissuing as a new number. What the scam wants is the 3 digit number! and that once the charge goes through, they keep charging every few days. By the time you get your statement, you think the credit is coming, and then its harder to actually file a fraud report. The real VISA reinforced that they will never ask for anything on the card (they already know).

What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I got a call from "Jason Richardson of MasterCard" with a word for word repeat of the VISA Scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up.

We filed a police report (as instructed by VISA), and they said they are taking several of these reports daily and to tell friends, relatives and co-workers.

Comments: There's no way to verify whether this anonymous, first-person account is authentic, but the type of fraud it warns against is real enough, so the message is worth heeding even if it is slightly misleading.

It's misleading in that it gives the impression that this type of scam is brand new and only pertains to the three-digit security code now found on the backs of most credit cards. In reality, it's a very old and familiar form of fraud that requires credit card holders to be protective of all the information pertaining to their accounts.

Banks and credit card companies have long warned consumers against providing personal information to unknown callers (or Websites). Con artists are often able to obtain partial information about a potential victim's account, then contact the person masquerading as a company representative to "verify" the account by requesting additional details - in the above case, the three-digit security code. But they might just as well ask for other pertinent details - for example, they may provide the last four digits of your account number (which typically show up on sales receipts, etc.) and request the other 12 digits to "confirm" it. Or they may already be in possession of your full account number and request the expiration date of the card, or your billing address. Any of these individual bits of information may be just what the scammer needs to "fill in the blanks" and gain full access to your account, so beware.

That said, consumers should also be aware that perfectly legitimate businesses or financial institutions may request your three-digit security number (known as "CVC2" by MasterCard and "CVV2" by Visa) to authenticate a transaction. What's essential is that you be fully confident of the legitimacy of the requesting party before giving it out.

See the resources below for tips on avoiding credit card fraud and identity theft.

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Sources and further reading:

Beware of Telephone Credit Card Scammers
TheBostonChannel.com, 24 December 2003

Credit Card Fraud
AARP's recommendations for avoiding credit card fraud and identity theft

How to Avoid Credit Scams
Straightforward tips from About's Credit/Debt Management Guide

Avoiding Credit Card Fraud
Entrepreneur.com, 9 September 2002

About Identity Theft
Federal Trade Commission consumer tips

Credit Card Industry Terms Defined
Entrepreneur.com, 22 October 2001

Last updated: 01/05/04

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