As promised, I continue to dig for potential threats to the financial integrity of American consumers. Most recently I reported on scammers spoofing caller ID numbers of Chase and Bank of America cardholders to gain access to sensitive information to steal from consumers. Now we are taking a look at fake credit cards – how they are made and how to avoid becoming a victim to these identity and credit card thieves.
There are many ways that crooks can illegally obtain account numbers – via stolen mail, dumpster diving, scamming at the register, skimming email, breaching retail accounts, etc. Once they have the account numbers, the thief sells them to another who then assembles fake cards, which are quickly used to rack up huge amounts debt. Many people are not aware there’s a problem until they get a call from the credit card company about suspicious transactions.
- Recoding Cards: An actual card is required for crooks to use this method to fake a legitimate account. The information on the magnetic stripe is recoded to tap a stolen account without reflecting that information on the front of the card. In essence, it looks legit with the user’s name but purchases are charged against a stolen account number. To make it more difficult to recognize a fraudulent account, they’ll make an ID from another state, knowing that most people won’t be able to discern a fake ID from a real one.
- Cloning Duplicates: In this situation, the thief takes the stolen account number and imprints it onto a blank card and uses it as the original. Cloning a credit card takes seconds. While a card is being swiped for payment – dishonest staff can swipe the card details which are downloaded on the computer. A duplicate card is made and until your next credit card statement arrives to alert you the cloner can spend at will.
- Faking Gift Cards: This is one of the more ingenious ways to steal using credit cards. Counterfeit gift cards are imprinted with the stolen number. Merchants think nothing of accepting what appears to be a legitimate gift voucher to pay for a purchase, while all the while they’re actually paying with someone’s stolen credit card account. Requiring no identification, fake gift cards are difficult to track; the perpetrators can perform the embossing from the trunk of a car and are known to travel across the country to perform their fraud.
Financial institutions work to keep ahead of the latest scams online and off. The Federal Trade Commission offers educational resources like the articles “Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud” on their website to help consumers avoid becoming a victim. Credit card companies also are actively involved in preventing fraud. If you are a victim, contact the institutions involved and file a complaint with the FTC or call 1.877.382.4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.