As technology continues to change, evolve, and advance, so do the ways that scam artists try to bilk consumers out of their money. Residents of one Illinois County are learning this lesson the hard way. The latest scam involves an automated system randomly calling households and informing unsuspecting consumers that there was a problem with their debit card. A professionally recorded message requests to enter a debit card number to proceed.
Now, you may be thinking, “Who actually falls for this stuff?” This situation, though, is different, because the caller ID displays an unblocked phone number an actual name of an existing financial institution. In reality, it’s not the financial institution, but simply divisive and ingenious scam artists making consumers think it’s a legitimate call and tricking them to hand over their debit card number.
Why Debit Cards are a Target
One of the primary reasons that the debit card has become the latest target is that consumers are using these cards more and more. Debit card usage increased by 58% in 2008 and is expected to surpass 67% by 2013. Targeting debit cards is also logical because it gives scam artists access to cash that comes directly out of a bank account. While steeling a credit card number may only lead to obtaining merchandise that could be sold for cash, debit cards and stolen PINs cut out this inconvenient step for the thieves to get the cash.
The phone scam is not the only scheme used to target your wallet. Debit and credit cards alike may be vulnerable at the gas pump or at an ATM machine. Scammers have learned to install sophisticated scanning devices at card swiping locations. The technology allows them to read and wirelessly transmit all of your card information to a thief’s laptop nearby. Not only is the magnetic strip on your card is scanned but also the keypad where a Personal Identification Number (PIN) is entered during a transaction.
What to Do
Whether you live in Illinois or not, similar scams are sweeping the nation. Prevention is always the best strategy. Here are a few advices on how to stop theft before it happens.
Be suspicious. If you receive a call asking you for any personal information, rather than being gullible and handing it over, let the caller to provide a phone number and insist that you want to verify and insist to call back yourself. Incase, there may be an actual problem, go to the company website, or pull out your card or statement and call the number listed there. Let the representative know what type of a call you received and verify that the call is legit. The extra minute you spend to verify that the call was legitimate will save you money and nerves. It’s always a pleasure to pat yourself on a back that you didn’t hand over your bank account information to a total stranger. In short, never give out any information over the phone because you have no idea who is calling you on the other end.
Always know your surroundings. If you see someone suspicious with a laptop near a swipe machine it is a sign of a possible theft in progress. Another useful advice is to choose using a credit card at the pump versus a debit card so you could avoid entering your PIN. When making withdrawals using your ATM card, use bank ATMs instead of convenience stores, kiosks and airport ATMs because they an actual bank ATM may be safer.
While Illinois residents should be on a high alert, debit card frauds and scams are growing supported by new technologies and innovative thieves. When you are a smart and an educated consumer, your knowledge becomes a shield that protects you from falling prey to these devices that gather steal your money and identity.