Avoid credit card scams

An e-mail warning has been making the rounds that contains three scenarios of credit card fraud. While none of the specifics have been confirmed, it’s not a bad thing to be reminded that keeping an eye on your credit cards is an important part of keeping your credit record in good shape.

First, the facts
The RCMP has collected some interesting statistics on credit card fraud. Understanding the risks are a good way to begin to protect yourself.

The top credit card fraud is counterfeit credit card use, which accounts for 37 per cent of all dollar losses. This happens when organized criminals use technology to manufacture phony cards. The best protection for you? Keep an eye on your statements and reconcile them to your receipts – every month.

Stolen credit cards come in next, with lost and stolen cards representing 23 per cent of dollar losses. The workplace is one of the most common places for credit cards to be stolen, as well as vehicles, health clubs, etc. Keep an eye on your cards and report any loss or theft immediately. Even if you find the card and it’s a hassle, you can’t be too careful.

No-card fraud comes in around 10 perent. This is where someone collects your credit card information – perhaps on the phone or at a phoney website – and uses it to order products over the phone or web. This can also happen if unscrupulous wait staff or retail staff save your information. Never give your credit card information out over the phone (for example, if you have been promised a “free vacation”) or web to anyone who solicits that information – a reputable retailer will not call up or email you to “confirm” your information. One twist on this phone scam is for someone to call claiming to be from a utility company. The caller informs the target that their power or heat will be cut off if they don’t make a payment over the phone immediately. If you receive one of these calls, tell them you will call back at the number given on your bill.

Non-receipt fraud represents 7 per cent of all credit card losses. This is where you don’t receive your credit card – but someone else does. If the person who takes the card changes the address for your statements, you could be unaware of the problem for some time. First, if you request a credit card, or are expecting a replacement card, be sure that you receive it in a timely manner. If not, call to cancel the card. Second, check your credit rating from time to time.

4 per cent of all credit card losses have been attributable to identity theft – but this is on the rise. For a more in-depth look at this issue see our previous article on identity theft.

Tips to protect your cards
Besides the ideas discussed above there are other ways to protect yourself from credit card fraud. Here are some tips to do so:

  • Check your statements every month.
  • Shred credit card applications you receive.
  • Sign your credit cards right away.
  • Don’t leave cards or receipts lying around.
  • Don’t ever write your PIN on your credit card, or store it near your credit card (or with the account number).
  • Keep an eye on your credit card every time you use it. Take it back as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t give your account number out over the phone or to a website unless you initiate the call or transaction and know it is a reputable company. On websites be sure it is a secure server (https://, not http://)
  • Don’t lend your card to anyone.
  • Don’t carry cards you don’t use.
  • Shred or file receipts.
  • If you move report your change of address to your credit card companies as soon as possible.