Common Scams Targeting Credit Cards
More than 150 million Americans were victims of credit card fraud last year, according to Security.org's 2023 Credit Card Fraud Report. It’s a serious issue that can impact financial well-being and personal security. Credit card fraud often leads to unauthorized transactions, which may result in financial losses for the victim. Fraudulent activity on credit cards can also negatively affect victims’ credit scores if the unauthorized charges are not resolved promptly. This can make it harder to secure loans or credit in the future and lead to higher interest rates.
As scammers get more sophisticated, safeguarding your finances to reduce your risk of credit card fraud and identity theft is more important than ever. Here are the most common credit card scams to watch out for, steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud, and what to do if you think your sensitive financial information has been compromised or stolen.
Card skimming involves criminals attaching devices to ATMs, gas station fuel pumps, or retail point-of-sale terminals to capture your card information. Scammers can then use your card information to create fake cards or make fraudulent purchases.
Before swiping or inserting your card, always check the card reader slot and keypad for anything unusual. If the card reader or keypad feels loose, or if you see any crooked or damaged parts, a credit card skimmer might be attached. Don’t use your card, and notify the business about your concerns.
It’s also a good idea to cover the keypad when using an ATM or making a PIN-based transaction to keep your info away from prying eyes (and any potential hidden cameras).
Phishing occurs when scammers impersonate legitimate companies to try to trick you into revealing confidential information. Scammers can use email, phone calls, and text messages to “phish” for your bank account or credit card details.
These fraudsters can pose as representatives from banks or credit card companies, the federal government, healthcare institutions, and other well-known sources asking for sensitive information. Never share information like your credit card details, Social Security number, account number or passwords, or personal identification number (PIN) in response to unsolicited communications. Instead, hang up or ignore the electronic communication. Then, you can verify if the request is legitimate by contacting the institution directly using official contact information.
If you get an email claiming to be from your financial institution or credit card company, double-check the sender’s email address. It may be similar to – but not an exact match for – a legitimate company’s URL. If the email contains typos or is grammatically incorrect, those are signs that a scammer may have sent it. And use caution before you click on any links within the email. They may direct you to what appears to be a legitimate website, but it’s actually a fake site created by scammers to capture your login credentials and password.
Remember, American Heritage Credit Union will never ask you for personal or account information via email, unsolicited phone calls, or text messages.
Online Shopping Fraud
Scammers can also try to steal your credit card information when you’re shopping online. Before entering your credit card details, make sure the website URL starts with “https://” (the “s” at the end stands for “secure”) and has a lock symbol to the left of the URL. These features indicate that the connection between your web browser and the website server is encrypted. That prevents your information from being intercepted by hackers.
In addition, you should avoid making purchases on public Wi-Fi networks. Always use a secure, password-protected internet connection when you’re shopping online or visiting financial websites. That decreases the chances that scammers can access your account information.
Imposter scams occur when a scammer claims to be a friend, family member, or a person associated with a government agency or private company. Similar to phishing scams, the goal of an imposter scam is to steal your money, your identity, or both. There are various types of imposter scams to watch out for:
- Overpayment scam: Scammers may send you an email that you have overpaid for a service or product and need to enter your credit card or bank account information to get a refund. Don’t be taken in!
- Utility shut-off scam: You may receive an email or phone call notifying you that your gas, water, or electric company payment is overdue and your service will be shut off if you do not click on the link and make a payment immediately. Don’t be fooled!
- Sweepstakes scam: If you get a message saying that you have won a contest or sweepstakes that you don’t remember entering, it’s likely a scam. Cybercriminals try to entice you with the promise of winning a large prize – and all you have to do to claim it is provide some personal details. Don’t fall for it!
- Government imposter scam: Criminals may pretend to be calling from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), IRS, or other official government agency. In some cases, they may even use fake caller IDs to try and trick you into believing it’s a legitimate call. Don’t be deceived!
Just like phishing scams, ignore these suspicious requests and verify if the request is legitimate by reaching out to the institution using their official contact information. In addition, be wary of anyone who contacts you with an offer or threat and demands payment via wire transfer, reloadable card, or gift cards. Imposter scammers often resort to these methods because they are difficult to trace.
More Tips to Protect Your Credit
Staying on top of your finances can help you guard against debit and credit card fraud. Sign up for credit-monitoring services to keep tabs on your account activity. You’ll get real-time alerts about any purchases, including attempted or rejected transactions. If you didn’t authorize the purchase, notify your financial institution immediately so you can cancel the card and prevent any further fraudulent charges.
Check your credit reports to make sure all your information is accurate and up to date. You can request a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) for free each year from AnnualCreditReport.com. American Heritage members can also check their FICO® Score for free in online banking each month.
Stepping up your online security can also help you reduce your risk of fraud and identity theft. Use strong passwords for your financial accounts, set up multi-factor authentication, and make sure your operating system and antivirus software are current.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
Dealing with the aftermath of credit card fraud can be emotionally distressing – and time-consuming. If you think someone is using your credit card information to make fraudulent purchases, there are steps you can take to report and recover from fraud. IdentityTheft.gov, the Federal Trade Commission’s website, includes an interactive checklist to help you place a fraud alert, close your account(s), remove unauthorized charges from your credit report, and develop a personalized recovery plan.
Your Security Is Our Priority
At American Heritage, we’re committed to providing a safe, stress-free banking experience for our members at all times. Our credit cards are equipped with secure EMV technology for enhanced fraud protection. Thanks to Mastercard’s Zero Liability Policy, you will not be held responsible for any fraudulent or unauthorized transactions if your card is lost or stolen. Please contact us immediately if you believe your American Heritage account or card was compromised.