If you get a call from your credit card company informing you that your account has been flagged because of suspicious activity, be skeptical.
A current scam works like this: A fraudster, claiming to be from the security department of a credit card company, tells the consumer he is checking unusual account activity. He may even offer a badge number. Then, he tells the consumer that a fake purchase, such as an $800 television from Best Buy, has been made on the card.
When the consumer says he did not make that purchase, the scammer explains that he is starting a fraud investigation and gives the consumer a "confirmation" number. He says he needs to verify that the consumer has the credit card and asks for the three numbers on the back of the card, known as the card identification number. He may already have the consumer's address and card number, and that verification code lets the fraudster ring up charges on the card.
Discover spokesman Matthew Towson, who says he is familiar with the scam, gives this advice:
• Card companies, including Discover, will never ask for a consumer's card identification number. Instead, they use security questions, such as mother's maiden name or the cardholder's high school.
• Consumers are not usually asked for card identification numbers unless they are making purchases over the phone or the Internet. Being asked for it in other situations is a tip-off to fraud.
• If a consumer calls Discover from a phone other than his home phone, the company will probably ask for the account number, because it doesn't match the phone number, and follow up with other security questions. But customer service representatives would not ask for the card identification number.
My advice: If you get a call from someone claiming to be from your credit card company, hang up and call the company yourself, using the number listed on the back of your card. That way, you'll know whom you're talking to.