Watch Out for the Latest Credit Card Scams

Con artists have gotten extremely savvy at swiping credit-card account information. They’re so successful, in fact, that 42 percent of American cardholders (prepaid, credit, and debit) report that they’ve been the victims of fraud, according to a 2012 survey from ACI Worldwide and Aite Group.

Here, three of the newest scams—and how to reduce your vulnerability.

Cramming

This rip-off has been around for a while, mainly affecting cellular customers. But recently, it’s been targeting plastic users, too. Those hit have small charges they didn’t make appear on their statement. “There might be $10 here or $20 there charged by a company you’ve never heard of,” says Beverly Harzog, credit-card expert and author of the forthcoming Confessions of a Credit Junkie.

Scammers hope that you won’t notice the charges since they are for negligible amounts. As a result, the fraud is hitting consumers hard: More than 20 million victims have been charged more than $24 million in fake fees, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

How to stay safe: The best way to combat cramming “is to check every line of your statement,” says Harzog. “If there’s a charge you don’t recognize, don’t pay it and call your bank.”

Interest rate reduction robocalls

If you’re deep in credit-card debt, you might receive a call promising to lower your interest rate. The catch? You’ll be required to pay a fee in order to get the lower APR. According to the FTC, these calls “claim that the lower interest rates are available for a limited time and that you need to act now. Some even use money-back guarantees as further enticement.”

How to stay safe: Harzog advises consumers to ignore these calls and phone their card issuer themselves to ask for a better rate. “There’s no need to pay a fee,” she says.

Over-the-shoulder photography

The advent of cell-phone cameras has enabled thieves to steal your credit card information right at the checkout counter. How does this happen? “Someone stands behind you in line (or nearby) and snaps photos of your credit card,” explains Harzog. “A lot of smartphones have exceptional cameras…the focus can be sharpened so they can see your account number, name, and expiration date.”

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How to stay safe: “Be aware of the people who are nearby,” advises Harzog. And while it may sound obvious, it bears repeating to keep your card face down when making a purchase. That way, a crook can’t see your personal information—even if they have a paparazzi-style camera.