New credit card scam preys on victims' caution

By Emma Lunn

You've probably already heard this advice: If someone calls you claiming to be from your bank and asking for account details, hang up and call your bank directly to determine the call is genuine.

However, a new, sophisticated scam is on the rise that uses this advice against the consumer. According to the Payments Council, UK cardholders have already lost more than £1.5 million to this so-called "courier" scam.

How the courier scam works
Courier scams are nothing new. Thieves, claiming to be from the bank, convince victims that their credit cards have been used fraudulently and need to be collected. The thief hires a courier (often an innocent party from an actual courier company), who collects the card and delivers it to the fraudster. courier-scam

The latest variation on the courier scam, however,  begins with a thief calling a cardholder, claiming to be from the victim's bank. The cardholder's cards have been compromised and used for fraud, the caller explains, and the bank needs to collect it and issue a new one. Knowing that this type of call often arises suspicions, the caller then suggests the victim call the bank to ensure the call is genuine.

Now here's the clever bit: The fraudster pretends to end the call by playing the recording of a dial tone. Thinking that they are beginning a new call, the victim dials the bank. The fraudster (still on the line) then "answers" the call, pretending to be from the victim's bank and asks the victim to provide the PIN and other account information.

The thief then explains the card will need to be collected by a courier. The victim is told the card is going to the bank to be exchanged for a new one -- but it's actually delivered to the fraudster to use together with the PIN.

How to avoid becoming a victim
The UK Cards Association, Payments Council and Financial Fraud Action UK are working to raise awareness of the scam, reinforcing the advice to never disclose your PIN over the phone.

"No one from your bank or the police will ever ask you for your PIN," says Neil Aitken, spokesman for the Payments Council's Pay Your Way campaign. "Anyone claiming to be from your bank or the police who does ask for your PIN is a fraudster. Your PIN is entirely 100% personal to you -- the only time you will ever need to use it is either at a cash machine, or to key into the PIN pad when buying something. Never share it with anyone else."

According to figures published by Pay Your Way, more than three quarters of UK consumers (76%) feel confident they would be able to spot a fraudulent telephone banking call. However, after hearing how the courier scam works, more than half (56%) of the 4,000 people surveyed were surprised by how sophisticated it is, one-third (33%) worried they were more vulnerable than they thought, and 80% felt that anyone could be a victim.

In addition to keeping your PIN safe, think twice if someone claiming to be from your bank mentions sending a courier to collect your card.

"Your bank or the police will never send a courier to collect your card," Aitken says. "Anyone who suggests this is a fraudster. If you find yourself in this position, it's important to make sure you don't put your personal safety at risk. Contact the police straight away if you think you are the victim of a crime in progress," says Aitken.

What if it's too late -- and you're already a victim? You must now begin the process of reporting the crime and attempting to get your money back.

"If you think you have been the victim of a fraud that has already happened, you should contact your bank or card company straight away on an advertised number," Aitken says. "Remember, all innocent victims of fraud are legally protected from financial loss."

See related: How to protect yourself from charity fraud, Stealing from children: Thieves prey on kids' identities

Published: 25 June 2012