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E-Mail and Phone Scams on the Rise; More Sophisticated

Reports of both local and national telephone and e-mail scams are increasing, threatening the financial solvency of those who might be taken in by the sophistication of these recent frauds.

In local cases, customers have been called by people claiming to be from the Security and Fraud Department of VISA or MasterCard. They ask if you had purchased an item–usually at a cost less than $500 to keep it under the radar screen of actual fraud investigations. When you reply that you haven’t, they then ask for information in order to “credit” your account.

In fact, the amount will then be charged, not credited, to your account, because now they will have received verification of the account number, perhaps your address, and other solicited information. Credit card companies stress that they will never ask for any information that is on the card, because they already have it. ONLY in cases when you have initiated the call should you provide any card information.

In a similar scam reported in the Denver Post, computer users are e-mailed by what appears to be a name brand, such as USBank, Citibank, or even the IRS. Readers are told that their accounts have been frozen because of terrorism, money laundering, or illegal drug activity. The readers are then asked to click what looks like a secure link with the company to provide personal information to reactivate their accounts.

To be safe, never give personal information to someone who has contacted you. When in doubt, before giving any information, hang up and contact the bank or credit company yourself to make sure that any such contact is legitimate.

Keep in mind that a legitimate company’s e-mail address should match the name of the institution.

Anyone who has provided a Social Security number online or by phone to someone who might be fraudulent should notify one of the credit reporting agencies: Experian at 888-397-3742, TransUnion at 800-680-7289, or Equifax at 800-525-6285, to place a fraud watch on their account.



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