Credit card fraud happens, but don’t let it happen to you

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Feb 25 2019 09:46 AM

MANILA -- Stuck in traffic for more than an hour last week and with my mobile phone battery on the blink, my only source of entertainment was the radio.

My Grab driver was tuned in to a public service program, and someone was seeking the help of the commentator because he had fallen victim to a credit card fraud.

He thought he received an exclusive offer for a card upgrade, and gave his credit card to a messenger who came to his house, posing as an employee of a card company. Worse, the victim also gave up his cash advance PIN, and now he found himself with a P120,000 outstanding balance, something he claims he has no way of paying.

His sob story brought back memories of my own one. A few years ago, I was sitting at my desk in our office when I got a call from my credit card company. They detected unusual spending activity with my card and was checking if those were my purchases.

So I asked when was the last purchase made, and to my shock, I was told it was just 10 minutes ago! I panicked and explained in a rush that I had been working all morning and have not left my seat.

I was checking my bag as I was talking on the phone, and was relieved to discover that my credit card was in my wallet, but then that just confused me even more. How can they charge purchases to my card when it was with me?

Later I would learn that the fraudster racked up P65,000 in unauthorized spending on my card. While the credit card company would not share specifics, they hinted that I used my card in an establishment (my guess was a gas station) where it was compromised.

Someone had stolen my card’s information from the magnetic stripe, and they did it to several other clients, enough for the card company to see a pattern. Thanks to that pattern, I did not have to pay anything and was issued a new credit card within the week.

I may have been off the hook but I began to take better care of my credit card. For a long time, I would pay in cash just to avoid handing it over to a waiter or to a gas station attendant. It was okay to give it to the cashier in front of me who would swipe it once then return it, but if they will physically take the card and disappear for a few minutes, I feared the same thing may happen.

Considering how much my salary was at that time, it would have really hurt if my credit card company made me pay for the fraudulent transactions. But even if I could afford it, no one wants to pay for purchases that she did not make.

According to The Nilson Report, global card fraud losses continue to be on the rise. It was $21 billion in 2015, up from about $8 billion in 2010. From 2016 to 2025, the US-based research agency projected the fraud losses will nearly double, climbing from $22.8 billion to nearly $50 billion.

Today, fraudsters know more people are carrying less cash and using electronic money and online currency instead. When they steal your wallets, they want your cash, but will try and use your ATM, debit and credit cards too. They don’t even need your actual credit card to defraud you; access to your personal information are sometimes enough for them to compromise your account. Don’t be the next victim by taking these cautionary steps.

#1 Treat your credit cards like cash. While we all know better than to leave our cash lying around, many are not as careful about their plastic money. Try to recall the last time you used your card. Did the cashier carefully examine your signature on the charge slip? Did they ask for another ID to verify that you are the owner of the credit card? Most likely, the answer is no to both. So all a fraudster really needs is your physical card to go to town so don’t make it easy on him or her. Remember that you can lose as much as your credit card limit so better keep that card within your sight or under lock and key.

#2 Treat your personal information like cash too. In this age of digital currencies, your personal details have value, just like money. When you shop online, or when you need to verify transactions with your bank, what do they ask for? Your personal information. So when you make that easily available from your social media accounts, that’s a red flag you are waving to the fraudster bulls. Reckless sharing of personal information on social media is asking for trouble so be careful what you share and who you share it with.

#3 Lock down, not write down your PIN and passwords. Majority of fraud cases happen because the account owners disclosed their account information. Did you write down your PIN in a piece of paper and placed it inside your wallet along with your card? You are making it too easy for the data thieves. Or do you keep track of your passwords by emailing it to yourself? Email breaches happen too – and if it happens to you, that’s all your accounts at risk so now you have to race against the clock to beat the fraudster from going on a spending spree with your money.

#4 If they’re sending phishing emails, don’t bite. Identity thieves use phishing to trick credit card users to provide personal information. They send unsolicited emails posing as legitimate sources like a credit card company. Most phishing emails hook cardholders by threatening them with account deactivation or cancellation that they can only prevent by validating their account through a link.

The Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP) continues to step up its information drive to educate bank clients and card holders on how to protect their accounts and to be on the lookout against fraud. In their website, executive director Alex Ilagan advised the public: “Never click on a link or download anything from suspicious emails trying to get account information from you. Always remember, a real credit card company will never ask for these kinds of information or make you click on a link via email.”

#5 Be wary of voice phishing too. You can set up your email account to filter phishing emails and that’s one attack you foiled. But now they also started using vishing, or the voice version of phishing. While phishing is done online, a vishing scam refers to fraud tactics made over the phone. Here, a fraudster again poses as a bank employee threatening you to either go through a process where you have to give your personal information or run the risk of getting your account blocked by the bank.

According to CCAP, phishing and vishing scams are two of the most common ways fraudsters steal personal information. Ilagan reminded the public to always keep their card and bank information private. When they have your personal information, fraudsters will not only use your credit card, but they can even take over your account.

#6 If it’s too good to be true, it is. Remember the cardholder who called the radio station for help? Well, he fell victim to the ‘upgrade modus’ where fraudsters pretend to be credit card employees who offer to upgrade your credit card, asking for your personal information in the process. They will eventually ask you to surrender your card. These schemes can sometimes be convincing and feel so legitimate that you would say yes, just like the cardholder from the radio program.

CCAP said that credit card users should never surrender their credit card to anyone for whatever reason. Your credit card company would not ask for it – if you are getting an upgrade, they will ask you to destroy the card you have now and wait for the new one to be delivered.

CCAP also strongly advises cardholders against divulging their credit card numbers, online passwords, and most importantly, the last three digits at the back of their credit cards.

#7 Sweep your Apps and permissions. With many banks now offering mobile Apps and online access, you need to also be careful about the other Apps you have downloaded. Be choosy when giving permissions to Apps and you should consider removing ‘dangerous’ permissions physically. Here are some examples.

If you give permission for access to your calendar, it means you are allowing the App to read and write in your calendar. Seems harmless? Well, potential dangers include leak of your business meeting information. How about permission to use your camera? Then the App can take photos and videos and you open yourself to the danger of the App taking sensitive photos and videos of you.

When in doubt, always verify with your bank and credit card company. They offer ongoing advice on keeping your account secure – as they don’t want you to be a fraud victim too.