5 common card scams to avoid

We round up some of the top card scams to look out for so you don’t get caught out…

Common card scams to avoid

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Although credit and debit card scams might be common, it’s reassuring to know that the majority of attempted fraud is stopped in its tracks. UK Finance reported that in 2017, £2 of every £3 attempted fraud was prevented.

But although prevention is improving, it still pays to be vigilant.

Here, we run through the most common card scams and the best ways to protect yourself against them.

1. Phishing

Phishing emails are particularly common and aim to steal your credit card and bank details.

They will often appear to come from big, familiar companies such as your bank, HMRC, Apple, Amazon, Paypal and Netflix – perhaps suggesting there is a problem with your account or, in the case of HMRC, telling you about a tax rebate.

Often you’ll be asked to click on a link within the email to update your card payment details or input personal information. Once armed with this information, the criminals can spend freely. 

2. Smishing

Smishing is similar to phishing, but instead of receiving an email you’ll be sent a text message claiming to be from your credit card provider or bank.

Similar to the above, you may be asked to click on a link to rectify a problem with your account or you may be asked to confirm whether a particular transaction on your credit card has taken place by replying ‘Y’ or ‘N’.

However, if you reply to the message, it confirms your mobile number is active and you may then be asked to confirm your credit card details, as well as other personal information.

3. Card courier scam

This scam has risen in popularity in recent years. The fraudsters begin by calling you on your landline. They’ll say they are calling from your bank and that there has been fraud on your account and your debit or credit card will need to be collected.

They will then advise you to hang up and call your bank for confirmation, making the situation seem genuine.  

At this point, you will hang up and ‘end the call’, however the scammers will remain on the line. As they were the incoming caller, they can stay on the line and give you the impression that you are making a new, outgoing call.

Once you’ve ‘called back’, the scammers will ask you for personal information and perhaps ask you to key in your debit or credit card PIN on your phone.

They will then send a courier to your house to collect your card (often the courier has no knowledge that they are involved in a scam) and once they have received your card, they can spend at will.

4. Distraction theft

This particular type of scam happens when one person (or a group of people) approaches you and distracts you while they take your card. The same person may have already been watching you when you entered your PIN.

It usually takes place in or around a bar, restaurant, supermarket or shop. The scam could involve asking if you have change for a £10 note, asking for directions or dropping money while you are using an ATM.

5. Online purchase scams

When making a purchase online, it can be easy to get carried away by the promise of a bargain. But sometimes when something seems too good to be true, it’s because it actually is.

Online scams like this can come in the form of ticket purchases, online auctions or even investment opportunities. So before you enter your credit card details, take a step back and consider whether it seems genuine or not.

How to protect yourself

  • No company should ever ask for personal information over email. Always type in your online bank address yourself rather than going via a link in an email and if you’re unsure about anything, give your bank a ring.
  • A good way to detect a phishing scam is to hover your mouse over the sender to see the full email address, and over links to see where they really go. Doing this will usually expose anything illegitimate.
  • Check carefully for spelling or grammar mistakes in emails, as well as threatening or amateur-sounding copy. These are often good giveaways that the email is not genuine.
  • When shopping online, use trusted retailers or do your research if you’re shopping somewhere new. Always check there is a padlock symbol in the browser or the website address starts with 'https' rather than 'http' as the 's' means it's secure.
  • Sign up to Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode as these ask you for a password every time you pay by card.
  • Never write your PIN down or tell it to anyone. Your bank will never ask for your PIN or ask you to key it in to your phone keypad. You should also ensure you shield your PIN every time you type it into the keypad on an ATM or a card machine.
  • Regularly check bank and credit card statements. If you spot anything suspicious, contact your bank.


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