About a week ago I got two e-mails from Walmart.com confirming my orders of four $25 T-Mobile prepaid cards.
Just one problem: I didn’t order any prepaid T-Mobile cards.
I spent a long time looking at the e-mails from Walmart.com because I thought they might be a phishing scheme. You see, a lot of scammers will make their e-mails look remarkably like the real thing in order to get you to give them personal information they can use to steal your identity and your money.
The e-mails looked legit. So I logged into my credit card account, and sure enough, my card had two $50 charges from Walmart.com that I didn’t make. I immediately attempted to cancel the orders on Walmart.com. Their customer service department told me that I would have to dispute any charges directly with my credit card, but recommended that I delete any saved credit card information in my Walmart.com account and change my Walmart.com password, which I did.
I had to wait a couple of days before the charges were officially posted to my credit card, but once they were, it was a few simple mouse clicks to dispute the charges and have them removed.
It appears to have been an isolated incident, but I know that credit card scams are everywhere. A friend of mine recently reminded me of this, when she sent me some info outlining a popular credit card scam. The scam works because the thieves call you with an incredible amount of information that they already know about you, and that familiarity tricks you into giving them the final pieces of information they need to steal your identity.
A few years back, I got a phone call from my credit card company saying that it appeared there was fraudulent use of my credit card. I was suspicious, so I apologized and told the caller I would have to call them back. I didn’t call the number they gave me. I called the number listed on the back of my credit card.
Fortunately, it was a legitimate phone call, and my credit card company was able to stop me from being charged for $747 worth of leather goods from Wilson’s Leather that I didn’t buy. In this case, I had to be issued a new credit card.
These little stories are good reminders to watch out for credit card scams. You can do that in the following ways:
- Pay close attention to communications that claim to be from your credit card company. Read each letter or e-mail carefully before responding. Make sure that the e-mail is from your credit card company. One simple way is to hold your mouse over the links in the e-mail to see where they go. If they don’t connect to your credit card’s website, it could very well be a phishing scam. If you have any doubt as to whether an e-mail or letter is legitimate, call the number on the back of your credit card and ask.
- Study your credit card billing statements. Review your monthly statement to make sure that you haven’t been billed for things you didn’t charge. If you see anything wrong on your statement, call the phone number on the back of your credit card and find out how to dispute the charges.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone or via the internet unless you have initiated the conversation. Just because someone claims to be from your credit card company and has a lot of your information, it does not mean they really are who they say they are. Ignore internet requests for personal data and tell any callers that you will be contacting your credit card company directly to verify their information request. Then always call the number on your credit card and talk to a customer service representative.
- Check your credit report regularly. You are entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) annually by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t request all three reports at once. Instead, request one report quarterly so that you can monitor your credit report without having to pay for an expensive service to do it. Make sure your credit report doesn’t have errors, and if they do, correct those errors as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have any debt and don’t plan to accumulate any, a bad credit report can affect other areas of your life such as being approved for rental properties and insurance rates.
Last week’s fraudulent charges on my credit card were a good reminder to always pay close attention to my accounts. If I hadn’t caught the charges, the thieves may have continued to use my card to make even more purchases. And if I didn’t dispute them in time, it could have cost me a lot money.
Have you ever been the victim of credit card fraud? What did you learn from the experience.