Sneaky Tricks Steal Credit Card Numbers and Escrow Payments

Don’t fall for these credit card number theft scams: Internet Scambusters #638

Curiosity can sometimes get the better of us when crooks set out to steal our credit card numbers.

In this week’s Snippets issue, we explain two of the latest scams that prey on our sense of surprise or mystery to steal those precious numbers.

We’ll also tell you about a dangerous escrow trick targeting homebuyers as well as a new bogus parking ticket scam.

Let’s get started…


Sneaky Tricks Steal Credit Card Numbers
and Escrow Payments


There’s no end to the ingenuity of scammers when it comes to stealing credit card numbers, as we’re about to explain in this week’s Snippets issue.

In one of the latest tricks, what seems to begin as a lovely gesture turns into a sneaky and clever trick to get your card number, plus the security code on the back, right on your doorstep.

You’re almost bound to feel thrilled and intrigued when a uniformed courier turns up at your front door with a bottle of wine and a basket of flowers.

And because he’s delivering alcohol, maybe you won’t feel surprised or suspicious when he tells you there has to be a special, small delivery charge of $3.50.

But because he’s supposedly not allowed to handle cash, he tells you he needs to collect your payment via credit card.

He swipes your card and checks the security number on the back, tips his peaked cap and is soon on his way.

What you don’t know is that when he swiped your card and read your security number, he instantly transmitted them to an accomplice in another state, who now has your name, address and all relevant card details.

Literally within seconds, the accomplice uses those details to make Internet purchases worth several thousand dollars, buying products that are often sent to a PO Box, an unoccupied property or to an innocent “mule” for forwarding to another destination, usually overseas.

By the time you know about it, you monthly card bill has gone through the roof.

And although you’ll almost certainly be protected against most of the damage by your card company’s fraud policy, you’ll need to replace your card, amend recurring payments and possibly face other credit problems.

Action: Simply this: Unless you personally ordered something for payment on delivery (increasingly rare these days), don’t hand over your card to a front door caller you don’t know — whether he claims to be a courier, a utilities worker or anyone else after your money.

There’s actually no reason why you should have to pay extra for a delivery of alcohol but if someone demands it, just refuse, even at the risk of upsetting a genuine sender or failing to satisfy your curiosity.

Calling Yourself?

Another ruse that relies on exploiting our curiosity aims at getting you to pick up on an incoming telesales call.

We’ve previously explained in Scammers Can Now Use Fake Caller ID Number how scammers are able to spoof a legitimate caller ID to fool you into thinking a call is genuine.

But how about when the caller ID actually shows that the source of the call is … you?

That’s what’s been happening across the country in recent months, prompting scores of victims to pick up the phone only to hear an illegal robocall offering to lower victims’ credit card interest rates.

And, yes, once again, the call aims to collect your credit card number.

It also employs a well-known trick of inviting victims to “Press 1” to opt out of further calls.

Of course, it does nothing of the sort. Instead the scammers pass on your number as “active” to other illegal telemarketers.

Action: There’s no reason why caller ID would ever show your own name and number on an incoming call, so don’t answer it.

And, remember, incoming robocalls are mostly illegal so if you hear a recorded message from someone you haven’t agreed may call you, it’s likely a scam.

And don’t ever “Press 1” to opt out of calls — unless you want more of them.

Realtor Escrow Scam

For our third Snippet, a warning for homebuyers and their agents about a phony escrow request that could cost thousands of dollars.

One victim almost lost $48,000 before the scam was spotted at the last minute.

It’s a simple and convincing trick.

The scammer identifies buyers who are near to closing on a deal and sends them an email purporting to come from their agent or broker.

It requests money to be wired to an escrow account, which, of course, is phony and untraceable.

To make the request seem legitimate, the email may include documentation including a bogus “closing statement.”

Several realtors have reported this scam and some victims have lost substantial sums of money.

It’s easy to fall for, especially if buyer and agent have already been communicating via email.

Action: As we frequently warn, never assume that the sender of an email is the person it seems to come from.

Always check independently, by phone, with your agent that the request is legitimate. Even then, check out the escrow company’s validity and reputation online.

Alert of the Week

Did you receive a parking violation notice from your city?

Spammers have been flooding payment demands into email inboxes across the nation, knowing that a small percentage of people will pay up without question.

As with the unpaid toll scams we reported on a couple of weeks ago, the links or attachments in these messages are aimed at installing malware on your PC.

Genuine payment demands are usually not sent out by email, especially from the government. They usually come by snail-mail.

If you’re at all worried after getting an electronic parking violation notice, don’t click links or attachments; contact your local DMV.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!