Summertime in Scam City
Scammers don’t take summers off. In fact, some scams thrive during the summer, particularly those involving vacations or travel.
An increasingly common one involves hotels. You’re awakened at night by a call from the front desk saying there’s a problem with your credit card, so please reread the number. The scammers hope you’ll do something half-asleep that you’d never do wide-awake: give out card info to a caller.
Other hotel guests find pizza delivery order forms, but when they place an order – by credit card – their identity is stolen.
Another scam involves a cabbie who unloads your bags at the airport in a rush, then speeds away – with the last bag. Sergeant Jerry MacDonald of the Las Vegas Police Department has seen plenty of this: “They’ll snatch your luggage faster than you can blink.”
A recent scam involves cellphones and the number 72. You receive an awful call reporting a family member’s death, with instructions to call another number beginning with *72 for details (a hospital or doctor). This transfers your number to the scammer, who can give it to anyone, with you picking up the tab. Don’t use *72 or any other number to forward calls to someone you don’t know.
Sometimes scammers phone as cops, saying you’ve been photographed breaking the speed limit and demanding a hefty fine. Legitimate police officers don’t do this.
Text phishing is common too. Scammers send a text message, supposedly from your bank, asking you to visit a website that requests personal details to “unlock” or “verify” your account. Never follow a link you’re not sure about.
A new phone scam has been reported by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Scammers call immigrants in America pretending to be from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). They threaten people with an investigation or a lawsuit, throwing around terms like “affidavit” and “allegations,” and tell you to pay by money transfer or gift card. The IRCC doesn’t collect payments this way, and they wouldn’t ask for basic info they would already own. And they don’t threaten to arrest people.
David Dewey, research director at Pindrop Security, says scammers thwarted by chip-embedded credit cards have turned to mobile wallets, tapping into accounts through Apple, Samsung and Android Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal, and others.
Dewey put mobile wallets to the test: He secretly copied credit card numbers and expiration dates from some colleagues, then Googled the answers to identification questions (like a colleague’s mother’s maiden name).
Within minutes, Dewey went to Whole Foods and bought lunch. (The colleague was reimbursed.)
“It’s amazing how easily I added somebody else’s credit card to my Apple Pay account,” Dewey says. With new technologies come newer scams. Check your credit card statements carefully.
Finally, with new Medicare cards coming (without your Social Security number), scammers are calling, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for your Social Security number or demanding payment for your card. Hang up, and report scams to the FTC. Medicare will never call you, and your card is free.
Whatever your circumstances, if you get a call or email asking for money or personal information – stop. Just hang up. You’ll remember your summer much more fondly.
Your Turn: Have you, or a family member or friend, been the victim of a financial scam recently? Tell us how it worked and what you did.
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