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Credit card scams

Credit card scams come in a number of cunning forms and while it’s important to be cautious with who you supply your credit card details to, other scams are simply unavoidable.

The good news is that if you are vigilant, keep up with your finances and regularly check your statements, any money lost is insured and will be reimbursed by your bank.

Types of scams

There are a variety of ways for scammers to get a hold of your credit card details. 

  • They could trick you to provide your card number and PIN by phone or email by pretending to be a company you trust, such as your bank or energy provider. As a general rule, your financial institution will never contact you asking for any personal banking details.  
  • They may remotely install spyware on your personal computer or a public computer you use, such as at the library. This gives the scammer internal access to the information on that computer, including the files used and websites visited.
  • Someone can physically steal your card.
  • An ATM skimming devices may be placed on public ATMs.
  • Someone can access information from unsecured websites where you have previously made a payment, such as online shopping sites.

Avoiding credit card scams

The key to avoiding being scammed, or at the very least minimising the damage caused by a scammer, is to be aware of the details of your finances.

While it’s easy to disregard your monthly statement it’s important to take the time to analyse each transaction to make sure you recognise the source. This allows you to catch any false charges early. Scammers will often start out by taking out small denominations as low as $1, and over time will become more confident deducting larger sums.

As well as monitoring your accounts, be wary of who you give your credit card details to.

When buying online choose well-known sites that are widely regarded as being reputable. Never give out your credit card details to someone to process a payment over an email or the phone.

When using your computer avoid using functions that pre-fill forms as these can give easy access to scammers who may have installed spyware on your computer. As an extra defence against computer scams make sure you have comprehensive and up-to-date virus protection installed.

Securing your credit card details also comes down to where you physically keep the card. Always be aware of where your wallet or handbag is and never keep a written copy of your PIN near your card. 

Worse case scenario

If you have given out your details to someone questionable or suspect you are a victim of a scam, you need to contact your bank immediately. 

Your bank will put a freeze on the card preventing further transactions.

Look back through all recent transactions to ensure there are no questionable charges and if there are, notify your bank who will refund the amount. These refunds often take time as the financial institution will need to investigate the claim to ensure that you are not in fact the one scamming them.

Running a virus scan on your computer and changing your online banking log-in details will help protect against further deductions from your account.

Lastly report the scam to the Australian Communications and Media Authority

A useful website to be aware of is SCAMwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.