Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can prevent a crook from stealing a
new credit card from the mail and running up fraudulent charges. Follow this fraud step by
(1) A crook steals from a consumer's mailbox (or elsewhere) an
envelope containing a new credit card or a card renewal. "Thieves can usually
recognize credit card mailings," says Gene Seitz, an investigator with the FDIC's
Division of Supervision in Washington. "Many only have a P.O. Box as a return address
and the cards are easy to feel through the envelope."
Having the card owner's name and address, the thief next finds out consumer's phone
number. He then calls, pretending to be a representative of the card company, and asks if
the new card has arrived. When told no, the con artist instructs the worried consumer to
call a particular toll-free number to report the card missing.
The consumer's call actually goes to a member of the same crime ring who asks for the
consumer's Social Security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name and other personal
information. With this information, the thieves can call the card issuer, activate the
card and go on a shopping spree.
executive director of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators,
based in Novato, California, says robbers also steal a new card from the mail, counterfeit
it, and put the original back in the mail. "The consumer then gets the real card and
activates it, but that also enables the thieves to start using the counterfeit," she
Under federal law, if your credit card or card number is used by a thief the most you're
liable for is $50 per card. You owe nothing if you contact your card company before any
unauthorized charges are made. Even so, card fraud is a national problem and a reason
interest rates are higher on credit cards than on other loans. You can help stop card
fraud by calling your card company immediately if a new card doesn't arrive as expected or
if the envelope appears tampered with (and get the correct toll-free number from your card
statement or by calling an operator at 800-555-1212). Never leave your card payment in
your doorway or mailbox where thieves can steal enough information to order a new card in
your name. Always check your card statement when it arrives and look for suspicious or
Experts also emphasize that you should never give out personal information over the phone
unless it's a call you originate to someone you know and trust. "Card companies never
call customers asking for personal information; they already have that information,"
|Warning: Scams by Phone and Computer
Have Familiar Ring
Phony prize offers are the top telemarketing fraud reported by consumers to law
enforcement authorities. And when it comes to Internet crimes, the most common complaint
involves "pyramid schemes," typically ads falsely promising big bucks for
recruiting other people to invest money. That's according to 1996 data recently released
by the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC), a project of the National Consumers
League in Washington that fields reports of suspected frauds and passes them along to
federal and state authorities.
The NFIC said the 10 most commonly reported telemarketing scams, in order, involved offers
of: prizes, work at home, magazines, investments in a communications business, loans
involving up-front fees, lotteries, vacation packages, credit cards involving up-front
fees, miscellaneous business and franchise opportunities, and office supplies.
The top Internet frauds involved: pyramid schemes, sales of software and computer
equipment, Internet services, business and franchise opportunities, work at home, buyers
clubs, magazines, investments, scholarship offers, and prizes.
If you think you've been victimized or if you want more information about fraud
prevention, contact the NFIC at 800-876-7060 or visit its Internet site at www.fraud.org.