Hah! Credit card fraud, that’s easy. All you need’s a store catalogue, a card skimmer, and a street corner. When someone walks past, whack them in the head with the skimmer. Then search their unconscious bodies, steal their card, and buy a sofa off the catalogue. I know, it’s like I’m some sort of criminal mastermind. Since you know that trick now, let’s look at a few others:
1. The Card Swap
This scam originates from a hive of scum and villainy, in which every resident’s sole purpose is testing police response times. (Also known as Friday in Sim Lim Square).
After being perfected there, the scam spread to a number of places; mainly bars and KTV lounges. Here’s how it works:
Say you’re at a bar with some friends, and you’ve had a few beers. Or more than a few, which is the reason you’re offering to pay. So you signal the waiter over, and hand him your credit card.
He walks off with it, and comes back a minute later. You sign the little slip, and he hands you your credit card wrapped in the receipt. By this point, you’re too smashed to puke accurately into a meter-wide drain, let alone pay attention to your card. So you shove it in your wallet, and stumble home.
Days later, you open your wallet to use your credit card again. And what the hell? This isn’t my card!
Because the credit card wrapped in the receipt? That was someone else’s expired card. And while you’ve been holding on to it, someone’s been on a spending spree with your actual card.
Assuming you took too long to find out (more than a few days), you’re likely to be 100% liable for incurred charges. Because you didn’t report your card as stolen or lost immediately, and it’s easy for the bank to claim it’s your own negligence.
How to Avoid It
Be extra alert at bars, clubs, KTVs…anywhere you’ll be drinking. For obvious reasons, the inebriated are preferred targets for this scam.
It’s a simple matter of unwrapping of the card from the receipt, and checking that it’s yours. Every time.
This one’s old, but it’s still popular. Skimming involves the use of a card reader, which electronically reads and stores your credit card information.
Skimming incidents mostly happen at food & beverage outlets. It’s the preferred location for scammers, since your card’s removed from view when you pay. After you give a server your card, someone (not always said server) takes the card and runs it through a skimmer. This logs all the information needed to duplicate your card, or to make online purchases.
They then run your card through the credit card machine, and payment proceeds as usual. You’re none the wiser. Until the credit card bill arrives that is, and you regain consciousness in the cardiac patient’s ward.
How to Avoid It
Walk to the counter when paying, and watch what’s being done with your card. Also, note that some scammers use portable skimming devices, which are often strapped to the ankle. If they’re being watched, they might pretend to drop the card, and skim it while “picking it up”.
3. Email Phishing
This is when the scammer sends email that supposedly comes from your bank or credit card company. The email is official looking, and may have signatures, logos, etc. which are scanned or copied from elsewhere.
A typical phishing request reads like this:
“Dear Sir / Madam, we have detected suspicious activity involving your credit card. In the interests of your privacy and security, please send us your name, credit card number, etc.”
If you supply all the information requested (which may not include the PIN or CVV number), the scammers will have all the leads they need to find your credit card details. Some scammers even send official looking “thank-you” messages as follow ups.
Which is appropriate, since by then they’ve ordered two truckloads of everything on Amazon at your expense.
How to Avoid It
Do not click any links in the email. That’ll probably install some kind of spyware. If you’re unlucky, even opening the email has already done that. So do a quick scan whenever you’ve opened an email like this.
No bank or credit card company will ever ask you for this kind of information via email.
4. Clone Sites
Clone sites resemble other, legitimate websites. But their real purpose is to extract information about you, which includes credit card details. Two examples:
Say you make a typo and go to a site called Amazzon, or Goggle, or whatever misspelled variant. The colours, banner, layout, etc. of this site closely mimic the real one. You then get a pop-up offering you free iPads, MacBooks, money, and so on…if you take part in a free survey.
To complete said survey, you need to give your address, email, etc.
If you’re lucky, this is a set-up to mail you 10 trillion Viagra ads. If you’re unlucky, it installs spyware that sends critical information to hackers (like your credit card details).
Another example is when clone sites mimic bank websites. These often start with an email (see point 3), which take you to a cloned bank site. The fake site requires “login” or “registration” information, which means typing in details like your IC number, credit card numbers, account numbers, etc.
How to Avoid It
Be extra cautious when filling in surveys or registration forms on the Internet. A good scammer just needs your name, IC number, and address to turn your life upside down.
Access to any one of your accounts (Facebook, email, etc.) might also suffice. Think of it as a burglary: Only one door or window needs to be open to clear you out.
5. Call Centre Scammers
Some call centres have been infiltrated by scammers, who run a side-business of their own: Using the legitimacy of the call centre to pry information from you.
For example, say you call your telco about renewing your phone line. The scam operator will ask a bunch of routine questions, then mix in a few odd ones. Like asking about your credit card number, or inquiring too much about your bank account.
Coupled with the fact that they know your name, IC number, and address (which you probably provided without a second thought), you’ve given them all they need to rip you off.
This is why call centres like to record conversations. It’s not just for “training purposes”, it’s for events like these.
How to Avoid It
Avoid giving out bank or credit card details to call centre operators. When requested, always ask why it’s necessary.
If you feel the operator’s questions are suspicious, request to speak with the manager. Check if it’s routine for operators to request such information.
And for more on credit card issues, or tips on using credit cards correctly, follow us on Facebook. Till then, stay safe and keep your card details private.