A couple became the latest victim of a credit card scam this week when a caller claiming to be an employee of Southwest Times Record newspaper duped them into giving their credit card number.
The couple said that a male caller told them over the phone that the classified ad they had placed with the newspaper "did not go through." He then proceeded to ask the husband and wife for their credit card number to complete the transaction. Believing that the man on the phone was indeed working for the Times Record, the couple promptly revealed the card number.
A few days later, the victims' card statement showed unauthorized purchases totaling $1,300.
John Speck, Advertising Director of the newspaper, warns customers not to trust would-be employees so easily. He explains that the newspaper uses a "real-time credit card processing" system. Once customers give their credit card numbers, the advertising cost is automatically charged to their card, usually while the customers are still on the phone. Speck says that the payment is recorded to their clients' card records in just seconds.
Speck also adds that once a transaction is completed, there is no need for employees to call customers and report a rejected card. He points out, though, that advertising employees do keep in contact with previous customers to ask if they are willing to place ads with the newspaper again.
Industry experts are cautioning cardholders against trusting individuals claiming to be employees or representatives of corporations or card companies. They say that identity theft is fast becoming one of the most costly crimes in the U.S. with billions of dollars being scammed out of unsuspecting victims.
Swindlers can often open card accounts in the name of many consumers by simply presenting fake social security ID's and real addresses. They can also get important personal information from discarded card statements and the internet. Using these and other methods, scam artists can easily charge thousands of dollars to a consumer's account.
Worse, unauthorized charges are recorded and reflected in the cardholders' credit histories. Their credit scores will also suffer significantly especially if they fail to pay their debts on time. To avoid this, experts recommend keeping close track of all purchases using plastic. Card statements and other important documents should also taken well care of to avoid identity theft. Consumers should also report lost or missing cards and suspected unauthorized purchases immediately to their card companies.