Credit Card Scams and How To Avoid Them

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

Can you think of anything more infuriating than getting ripped off by credit card scams? Maybe there are worse things but just the mere thought of this really steams my tea. And just because you can dispute credit card charges, it doesn’t make this OK. These perpetrators are cowards and thieves and there are very few people I have less respect for. Enough. Here are the top scams and what you can do to protect yourself.

1. False Promises

Often someone will contact you to offer you a great way to reduce your interest rate by switching credit cards. All you have to do, they tell you, is to pay them an upfront fee.

To sweeten the deal, they encourage you to put the fee on the card itself. Don’t fall for this no matter how good the deal sounds. Even if you think the offer is coming from the company itself, rest assured it’s a scam. Legitimate companies don’t charge upfront fees for rate reductions. These thieves want your money or they want your information or both.

Besides asking for upfront dough, another sure-tale sign that you’re talking with a rip-off artist is if the call is computer-generated. Whenever you get approached with these kinds of offers just hang up.

How to avoid this scam.

Call the company yourself to request an interest rate reduction or look for credit card alternatives. Simple, Quick. Free. It’s a great way to protect your assets and credit score.

2. OH NO! There’s a problem with your account!

I almost fell for this one last week. I got an email from a Paypal fake site. They informed me that my there was a problem with my account and I had to log in to fix it. Of course, had I done so, these jerks would have obtained my Paypal password. The only reason I didn’t fall for it was because I forgot my password. (I knew my age and forgetfulness would come in handy one day.) Bottom line, if there is ever a legitimate problem with your account, Paypal and/or Ebay will ask you to go directly to their sites to fix it.

You can avoid this problem by never giving information to a caller or responding to an e-mail requesting private infomraiton. Always go directly to the sites rather clicking links. And if someone calls asking for information, hang up and call the company yourself. Your credit card has the toll-free phone number on it.

Often these scum bags have some partial information about you. They use this in order to build credibility and lower your defenses. Don’t fall for it Pilgrim.

3. Free Stuff you Don’t Want or Need

Ever get offers for free ring tones, music or access to inappropriate sites? These are festering pools full of bad stuff and computer viruses. Visit a site you shouldn’t and you increase your chances of contracting a computer virus or getting a Trojan horse. A virus will simply wreck your computer – and possibly cost you hours in repairing your credit report. A Trojan horse will wreck your computer and your credit. It will find your passwords and give the scammers access to your finances.

The absolute best way to make sure you don’t run into a problem like this is to simply refrain from going to the wrong neighbor on the net. In addition, make sure to have anti-malware on your computer and update it often. If you travel, you need to take other precautions especially when it comes to using your credit card and avoiding identity theft.

The internet is a cool place but safety comes first. Take time. Slow down and take care. What scams have you come across lately? What advice would you share with us?


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter W November 26, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Excellent post. It does have a typo though: “make sure to have malware … and update it often”. This is definitely not what you want. “make sure you do NOT have malware. Get antivirus software and update it often” would be a better sentence.


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