A Wave of Debit Card Fraud
It’s the sort of call that is becoming unnervingly common these days. Police in the city of Gilbert, Arizona near Phoenix, recently warned that criminals impersonating law enforcement officers were phoning residents and threatening them with arrest unless they pay outstanding traffic tickets. The way to pay the fictitious tickets? By handing over credit card numbers or prepaid debit card PINs.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, another group of recent debit card fraud perpetrators were even more ominous. “We have had a couple of bomb threats in the city of Tuscaloosa. The caller will state if you don’t put so much money on a Green Dot [prepaid] card or the bomb will blow up in an hour,” Sgt. Brent Blankley of the Tuscaloosa Police Department told the local Fox TV channel.
While the locations and cover stories are different, the use of prepaid debit cards and other plastic forms of payment by scammers is becoming an almost everyday occurrence. In fact, according to a new article on MarketWatch.com over 40 percent of Americans have faced some sort of debit card fraud or credit card scam sometime over the past five years. Not surprisingly, about half of Americans engaged in so-called “risky” financial behavior – everything from writing down a PIN number to carry around in a wallet or not shredding documents with sensitive account information – were victimized.
Given the constant onslaught by scammers and the successful efforts to obtain customer information from large stores like Target, it’s reasonable for people to take steps to protect themselves from debit card fraud and credit card scams. A start, of course, is not engaging in the sorts of risky behaviors that are easily avoided. The MarketWatch article, citing research conducted by ACI Worldwide and Aite Group, provided a list of five activities to avoid.
As a start, reporter Priya Anand says leaving a cell phone unlocked is an invitation to criminals to access personal financial information. Despite the risks, 11 percent of Americans don’t protect their phones. Second, over 10 percent of Americans don’t bother to shred documents that include personal financial information before tossing them in the trash. This should be avoided.
Third, banking or shopping on a public computer, like those available in a library, can make your banking and credit card information easily available to thieves; still, almost 10 percent of Americans do this. Fourth, actually giving out your financial information to the type of scammers operating in Arizona and Alabama is also a bad idea, as is replying to emails requesting your account information. And finally, writing down a PIN and putting it in your wallet or purse could very well get you in financial trouble. But taking simple steps can protect you from debit card fraud and credit card scams.