Follow these three steps, and you'll avoid the latest, hottest brand of identity theft.
First, the bad news: This year, thieves will increasingly use mobile-phone scams to steal our credit card information.
Now the good news: They’ll only be successful 4 percent of the time.
Ah, but more bad news: That will still total more than 15 million of us.
Finally, one last blast of bad news: That 4 percent is double from just last year.
Credit card thieves have been honing their skills by dialing unsuspecting card holders with a variety of scams. “Consumers are accosted by over 30 million spam calls to their mobile phones every day,” says cellular-security firm First Orion, which crunched some data and married it to a poll of 1,000 smartphone users.
With that many unsolicited phone calls trying to rip you off, it’s no wonder many of those target your credit card. What do these calls sound like? Well, ever gotten a recorded call from “Rachel from Card Services”?
Hi, this is Rachel from Card Services calling about your credit card account. It appears that you are now eligible for a significantly lower interest rate on your account. However, this offer is about to expire, so please press 1 now to be transferred to a live representative who can assist you in securing your lower interest rate.
“Rachel and her cohorts — Anne, Tiffany, Michael, Heather and others — from ‘Card Services’ have been annoying people for years with their illegal robocalls,” says the Federal Trade Commission in this amusing report. “It’s a scam. If you press 1, you’re connected to a scammer who will ask for your credit card number and other personal information.”
These scammers also pose as your credit card company itself. In a twist of brazen irony, they sometimes tell you a thief is trying to access your account. They need to make sure you’re not a thief — so they ask for your personal data!
Let’s end back on some good news, though. Here’s a simple three-step test for identifying the identity thieves…
1. Don’t get social
Your credit card company will never ask for your Social Security number over the phone. Neither will any reputable company you deal with.
2. Get back with them — and at them
If you’re not sure if the caller is legitimate, simply say, “I’ll need to locate the information you seek, so let me call you back. What’s your number?” Then check that number against the back of your credit card, in other personal records, or even on the company’s website.
3. Breathe deeply
These thieves apply pressure because there’s either an emergency now or a special offer now that requires your immediate attention. You can outwit these thieves by simply saying, “Give me an hour and I’ll consult my spouse/roommate/family member.” Two things often happen: These thieves are in a volume business, so they have no inclination to call back. They’ll simply move onto easier targets. Even better, with some time to really think about what you’ve been told, you see right through the scam.
Read more about identity theft at Debt.com, and remember: For their scams to work, you have to be an accomplice.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.