When you check your credit-card statements every month for thefts, your eyes likely scan down the column of figures for large amounts that indicate scammers have used your card for major purchases.
If you see a relatively small amount, only a few dollars, you might not investigate it, even if you don’t remember making the purchase. The Better Business Bureau has put out a notice that some of the credit cards that were stolen over the holidays have had a specific amount charged — $9.84 — on millions of cards.
This small-amount scam has been going on for years. In the beginning, scammers would order a small item from an online drugstore and cancel the shipment once the card was verified as being good.
Why would scammers charge small amounts? From the scammers’ point of view, it's still lucrative. If you charge two million credit cards and only put $2.50 on each one for your fake company, you still net $5 million. And using the smaller amounts makes it less likely that the thefts will be noticed, and the scam can continue for longer.
Mostly, however, these small amounts are tests to check whether the credit-card number is still good. It takes time to call the bank or credit-card company, but do it anyway. It could mean you’ve been targeted for larger thefts.
Here is some advice from the Better Business Bureau:
• Ask for a new card if you see charges you don’t recognize.
• If you lose your card and report it immediately, you won’t even have to pay the $50 if your card is used.
• Don’t leave your cards or statements lying around.
• Beware when ordering over the phone or online. Know who’s on the other end before you give your card number.
Here are some other tips:
• If you collect your mail and have it in the car with you, put the mail upside down on the seat if you leave the vehicle.
• Look carefully at your landline phone bill each month. If you’re charged for three-way calls you didn't make, complain and have the charges taken off.
• Also, check your bank statement for odd amounts that you don't understand.
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