Millions of us rely on credit cards, perhaps for major purchases we can’t afford to pay for outright, or just to manage our money and make ends meet each month. In the vast majority of cases, things run smoothly and we don’t encounter any problems.
However, fraudsters are always trying to find ways to con us out of our cash, so it’s a good idea to swot up on the different scams they use so you can avoid being caught out.
Credit card scams: Explained
Stolen or lost cards
If you lose your credit card or have it stolen, call your card issuer as soon as possible so it can be ‘stopped’ – that is, no more transactions permitted. If you don’t, the card could be used fraudulently.
One of the fraudsters’ main tactics is to contact you by email, phone or post, pretending to be your bank or building society, and ask you to reveal security information, such as your PIN. This is known as ‘phishing’.
Your bank will never do this, and neither will the police or any other legitimate organisation, so never give out your PIN to anyone.
Try to avoid using family birthdays as your PIN, it can be easy for fraudsters to track down these dates and work out what your PIN is.
Scammers are always finding new ways to clone or copy your credit card and then use it fraudulently. They may use an electronic device to ‘skim’ card details from victims, often when you are using it in shops, restaurants and bars.
Your bank will be in touch if they spot any unusual, or potentially fraudulent, transactions and will cancel your card after verifying with you if the transactions were yours.
Criminals can also use your personal details, such as your name, address and PIN number so that they can pose as you and set up new credit card accounts or take out loans in your name. The lenders may then try and chase you for the debt.
Always take care when disposing of correspondence and documentation – don’t put bank statements or similar items in the rubbish without shredding or destroying them first.
How to protect yourself against scams
- Don’t give out your PIN or write it down. If you do you could be accused of negligence by your bank or lender and that means if you are defrauded that you won’t be able to get your money back.
- NEVER share your PIN. If you’re asked for personal information, such as your PIN over the phone, via email or in person, do not share it. A legit company will never ask you to provide this information.
- Be cautious around emails asking for personal information. If you receive an email asking you to verify personal or card details, play it safe and delete it. Never click on a link within an email as this may give the scammers access to information stored on your computer.
- Use public Wi-Fi sensibly. Beware of carrying out financial transactions or logging onto your online banking on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone using a public Wi-Fi network as criminals might try to intercept your communications.
- Dispose of confidential documents appropriately. Shred documents which contain personal information that could be used by fraudsters.
- Don’t choose an obvious PIN. Try to avoid using family birthdays as your PIN, as fraudsters might track down these dates and work out what your PIN is.
Don’t forget to check your credit history
As well as making sure you always check your card statements carefully to see if your details have been used without your knowledge, it’s a good idea to regularly check your credit file.
You can get hold of this from one of the main credit reference agencies, Experian, CallCredit and Equifax. It will show if anyone has opened any credit card accounts in your name, or has made other credit applications, for example, for a personal loan.
What to do if you’re a victim of credit fraud
If you fall victim to credit card fraud, or you are suspicious of an email or phone call, contact your card provider immediately. You should also report it to ActionFraud.