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Commentary | July 21, 2009

Friends don't let friends get scammed

By Master Sgt. Charles Winslett Air Combat Command 23rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron

A friend recently fell victim to the latest credit card scam, callers posing as Visa and MasterCard representatives in an attempt to obtain credit card personal identification numbers. 

By understanding how the VISA & Master Card Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself. 

The scam works like this: 

Caller: "This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify (card item). This would be on your VISA card, which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in (place)?"

Cardholder: "No."  

Caller: "Then, we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching, and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (your address), is that correct?" 

Cardholder: "Yes."

Caller: "I will be starting a fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1-800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to the following six-digit control number. (The caller then gives the cardholder the control number.) Do you need me to read it again?"

Here's the important part on how the scam works. 

Caller: "I need to verify you are in possession of your card. Turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are seven numbers: the first four are part of your card number, the next three are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. I need you to read me the three numbers.

Cardholder: "The three numbers are (digits)."

Caller: "That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?"

Cardholder: "No."

Caller: "Don't hesitate to call back if you do," and hangs up the phone.

The cardholder actually says very little, and the caller never asks for or tells the cardholder the card number. When we called back 20 minutes later with questions, the real VISA Security Department told us it was a scam, and in the last 15 minutes, a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our cards.

We were then able to file a real fraud report and close the VISA accounts. VISA is reissuing new numbers. 

Do not give them the PIN
. By the time you get your statement, you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then, it's almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report. 

Instead, tell the caller, you'll call VISA or MasterCard directly for verification of the conversation. VISA will never ask for anything on the card as the company already has the information on file. 

What makes this more remarkable is that the day after my friend received a call from Visa, I got a call from a 'Jason Richardson of Master Card' with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up and filed a police report, as instructed by VISA.

Please pass this on to all your family, friends and neighbors. By informing each other, we protect each other.