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April 17, 2001

Hang Up On Credit Card Scam Calls

Source: Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Richmond, VA  (SafetyAlerts) - Is your number up - up for grabs, that is? Scam artists want your credit card number and they are calling consumers with a variety of creative approaches to get them to reveal it.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Consumer Affairs is warning the public about some of the many telephone techniques that have been used recently to try to make consumers disclose detailed credit card information. Once they have the number and expiration date in hand, the scammers can essentially rob consumers by charging their accounts without permission.

In most instances, the would-be thieves used solicitations and strategies that initially seemed innocent. In one incident, the caller presented an enticing offer. "How about a permanent low interest rate on your credit card? All you need to do is confirm your card number and expiration date to take advantage of this great opportunity."

In another situation, the solicitor told the consumer that she had been overcharged on a credit card. The solicitor's company would get the money credited back to the consumer, and all the consumer needed to do was verify her credit card number.

A third occurrence started with a request for the expiration date of the consumer's credit card to complete a transaction that had supposedly taken place. When the consumer refused to provide the information, the caller's request turned into a demand and the tone turned hostile and bullying.

The savvy consumers who received these calls realized in time that a person with a legitimate offer or request would already have the appropriate credit card information and would not have to ask for it. Their response was to hang up the phone.

But recognizing scams can sometimes be more difficult. Telephone con artists usually sound believable. They may also try to sound more like a friend than a seller or solicitor, and they usually have an answer for any objection. They are frequently in a hurry for a decision and vague about providing additional facts regarding their offer or query. They don't want to give potential victims time to consider before making a decision.

People should also be aware of several other widespread credit card phone scams. Prize offers are a longstanding and popular way to entice consumers. The con artists tells the consumer that he has won a car, vacation, big-screen TV or other fabulous prize. The caller then tells him that in order to receive his prize, he must pay shipping charges, handling or other fees and he then asks for a credit card number to speed up the transaction.

Consumers who have lost money to fraud may find themselves the target of what is called a recovery scam. In this situation, the scammer tells the victim that he will get the lost money back - for a fee, which of course can be charged to a credit card.

According to Stuart Ashby, Manager of Counseling, Intake and Referral for the Office of Consumer Affairs, unless the consumer initiated the call and knows how the information will be used, the best course of action when asked for any financial information is to refuse and immediately terminate the call. The longer the call continues, the greater the chance that the scam artist will convince the consumer to reveal credit card or other financial details.

For additional information, contact the toll-free consumer protection hotline at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In the Richmond area, dial 786-2042; for the remainder of the state, dial 1-800-552-9963.

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