Credit card holders warned on new telephone scam

6th July 2012  

The police and credit card companies are warning cardholders to be vigilant against a sophisticated new credit card scam. Since it was first spotted in 2011, it is estimated to have netted £1.5m for criminals, with more than £750,000 of that being stolen during the first four months of 2012.

Though the scam is similar in many ways to previous credit card scams, it contains an added element of sophistication to dupe even more sceptical cardholders.

Confidence trick

The way the scam works is that the fraudster rings up the unsuspecting cardholder, claiming to be their bank. They say that there has been fraudulent activity on the person’s card account, and so it’s necessary to collect their credit card and organise a replacement. As part of the confidence trick, the fraudster advises the victim to hang up the phone and call through to their bank directly, to verify the legitimacy of the call. However, the fraudster doesn’t hang up the phone on their end, and so the line stays connected.

When the cardholder hangs up and picks the receiver up again, a fake recording of a dial tone is played, fooling the customer into thinking they have actually contacted their bank. Having given the cardholder the false sense of confidence that this is all above board, the scam artist then requests that they either tell them their pin number or key it into the phone handset. Once this has been done, a ‘courier’ is sent to pick up the card. Thus the criminals gain access to the credit card and the associated pin number, while the cardholder believes that it has been taken to the bank to be replaced.

‘Could happen to anyone’

The police’s head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, DCI Paul Bernard, warned that, “Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone.”

In some cases, the fraudulent activity on the victim’s credit cards goes on for even longer because they are told to disconnect their phone and internet access, to ‘prevent’ further fraud. In this time high value items are purchased and cash withdrawn on the card, and the individual’s bank is unable to contact them to check that the transactions are genuine.

DCI Bernard added, “While we have seen an increase in this type of fraud, we know collectively we can stamp it out. If you become a victim of this type of crime, you should contact your bank in the first instance. If you have friends or relatives who you feel may be vulnerable to this, please help them to be more aware of the potential risks and what to look out for.”

Though this latest credit card scam has an added element of complexity, cardholders can prevent it by remembering the age-old advice that they should never disclose their pin number under ANY circumstances, and that bank’s will not collect a card in the event of fraud but instead ask the cardholder to destroy it personally.


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