Beware Scammers Latest Credit Card Rip Off Trick This Holiday Season
This holiday season the ease of giving and using gift cards leads to new opportunities for scammers.
No, Uncle Larry isn't trying to scam with with a $50 gift card.
But say you do have an uncle that gave you a gift card to buy pizza for everyone as family gathers this holiday weekend.
First he suggests you check the balance by calling the number on the back of the card.
If you've ever bought a VISA or Mastercard gift card, you're familiar with the number on the back that you can use to check the balance of the card. They also give as website to check online as well, but say you just decided to call the number.
Instead of remaining on hold or dealing with an automated system you reach an actual human. A person speaking with a unmistakable Indian-call center accent.
The scammer had what he wanted - a person on the line.
It was a simple mistake, but instead of dialing the number on the back of the card you called a number just one digit different. That tiny six you thought you saw in your haste was actually an eight.
In this case, the scammer tells you that while you should have been able to check the balance of the card the holiday had overwhelmed the automated system. There was a wait, but for this inconvenience you had won a $100 VISA Gift Card.
All you have to do is pay $4.95 in shipping in handling.
You look at the number you dialed on the phone and double check the number on the back of the card.
Instead of seeing the eight, you still see the six and think you have confirmed that you did indeed call the VISA help line.
You start to give them your card info, but wait he says, instead he needs an actual VISA not the gift card number.
At this point a red flag should have gone off for you, right?
But imagine yourself with people waiting on you to get the balance and go grab the food and the living room is full of loud hungry people. Kids are hollering, people are having conversations, and you want to hurry and think $100 sounds pretty good after all the cash you've been shelling out on this holiday extravaganza.
In a rush you start the process and they say wait through a series of recorded questions to claim your gift card.
The scammer is banking on you being distracted.
The scammer also targeted a gift card associated with the AARP. The scammer knew that it would be likely that someone using an AARP gift card would likely be an older person with bad eyesight. It would be a matter of time if you were a scammer with a number one digit different.
This actually happened this weekend. Family and distractions, a pair of reading glasses left on the desk at home. A perfect recipe for scammers.
Luckily, despite the distractions the scammer still relied on recordings and a sharp ear was able to hang up and cancel the card before money was stolen.
The lesson here is to be very careful when calling the numbers in the fine print on the back of gift cards. Scammers are hoping you will dial a 1-800-610 XXXX instead of 1-800-810 XXXX.
Just remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.