Education Scam Alerts

New Credit Card Scam

This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want.

Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This information is worth reading. By understanding how the VISA & MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself.

The scam works like this: Caller: "This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in Arizona ?"

When you say "No", the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?"

You say "yes". The caller continues - "I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security."

You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?"

Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card." He'll ask you to turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?" After you say "no", the caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do", and hangs up.

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card.

Long story - short - we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us a new number. What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card; DON'T give it to them! Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Master card directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I got a call from a 'Jason Richardson of Master Card' with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up! We filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are taking several of these reports daily! They also urged us to tell everybody we know that this scam is happening.

Please pass this on to all your family and friends. By informing each other, we protect each other.

In today's society, scams are everywhere. Scams can come in person, through the mail, or through the Internet. ICCU is trying to educate our members on some of these scams so everyone can help fight the tough battle against these scam artists. This page will highlight how to evaluate potential scams. If there is a scam that you know of, please share your story with ICCU so we can try to prevent another person from being scammed.

How to Evaluate Potential Scams

How do you know if an email, letter, of phone call you receive is real or a scam? We are asked that question every day. Often, there are no single determining factors; it is often a combination of inconsistencies that don't add up. Remember, the scam artist is trying to create a believable, plausible lie - he/she is deliberately trying to weave a story that is difficult to disprove.

In some cases, there is really no way to know at all. If you advertise something for sale, say a car, and a person answers the ad saying he/she would like to buy it, he/she could be real or he/she could just be trying to scam you. As you progress in the sale, you must simply keep asking yourself: is this what I would do?, is this what a legitimate buyer would do?, are his requests reasonable?, have I taken the right precautions, in case he/she should turn out to be lying?

There is no one indicator that can give you proof of a scam, but if a correspondence (i.e. letter, email, or phone call) exhibits enough of them, we would suggest that a scam is likely.

Here are some of the things to looks for:

From an Individual/Personal Contact:

An example of this would be getting a letter or email where the sender is going to mail you a check and wants you to Western Union the money back to him/her. In return you would get to keep a portion of the money. When this happens, the check is returned to the financial institution because the check is a fraud, and the person who got scammed is responsible for covering the amount of the check.

Research these items a little more closely to help determine if you are possibly being scammed:

Location - Where are they now? Some places are famous for being home to scams and scam artists, most notably, Nigeria, Russia, Romania, Africa, and other locations in the Third World. Scam artists can come from anywhere, so be aware of what you are getting in to. An example of how this can throw up red flags, would be if a person from Nigeria would want to buy a car from the United States. Stop and think, is someone really going to buy a car from another country? Probably not. If the person is located in a different country, assume first that it is a scam and keep your guard up!

Inconsistent Information - It is hard to maintain a lie. Look for information that doesn't match. If he/she says he/she grew up in Virginia, then they'd know about Busch Gardens and Williamsburg, right? If the scam artist claims to be American, but writes in a way that makes little sense or has a foreign accent, then English is not his/her first language.

Inaccurate Information - Look for inaccuracies that indicate a lie. If he/she gives you email addresses that bounce or phone numbers that are disconnected, take it as a sign. If he/she gives you an address, look at it on sites like Google Earth or WhitePages. Maybe it's just a parking lot or someone else's address. Do a search on the phone number and the word "scam" to see if anything comes up. Trust your instincts and remember if it is too good to be true, it probably is!

Have they asked you to send them money via Western Union or "wire transfer"? Unless it is a family member or a childhood friend, this will ALWAYS be a scam!

From Someone Claiming to be Representing a Business:

An example of this is a "company" advertising a secret shopping job in the newspaper. The only info the ad give is a phone number for the company. Once you call them, they ask for your name and address and tell you they will mail you some more information in the next few days. The mailing that you get is a letter along with a check asking you to secret shop a store. They want you to use the check to purchase a money order to send back to them under the pretenses that you are secret shopping how the store is processing the money order. The person who receives the check takes it to their financial institution to cash the check. From there, they take the cash to the store to purchase the money order. They are to keep a small amount of the check as their "payment" for the job. The money order is then sent back to the "business". Several days later, the check cashed comes back to the financial institution as a fraudulent check and the person who cashed it is responsible for covering that amount.

Research these items a little more closely to help determine if you are possibly being scammed:

  • Location - Where are they now? Some places are famous for being home to scams and scam artists, most notably, Nigeria, Russia, Romania, Africa, and other locations in the Third World. Scam artists can come from anywhere, so be aware of what you are getting in to. If the business is located in a different country, assume first that it is a scam and keep your guard up!
  • Can you reach them? Call the contact phone number. Can you reach them during normal business hours in their time zone? Did you get a person or a recording? If you went into an automated system, were you able to reach a live person? Be cautious when talking to someone with a foreign accent, especially if you called an 800 number. You were probably directed to another country. If the only means of contact is an email address or a cell phone, think "SCAM!" and get out as soon as possible!
    No Company email address - A real business will have it's own domain and web site - you can make a web site for less than $100 per year! Most reputable businesses will have an email that has their business name after the @, then followed by .com, .net, .co, .uk, .org, .gov, etc.). Be cautious when the email address ends with a free email account (i.e.,,, etc.).
  • Have they asked you to send them money via Western Union or "wire transfer"? This will ALWAYS be a scam! We know of no legitimate business that accepts payments via Western Union. Legitimate businesses anywhere in the civilized world can accept a check and usually a credit card.
  • If they have a web site:
    1. Do the links on the web site work? A few broken links here and there are normal, but if the majority are broken, that may indicate a web site that was slapped together quickly.
    2. Unrelated photos or content - Do the pictures, links, and content on the pages match the theme and purpose of the page and web site?
    3. Vague or inaccurate information - Reputable marketers have access to the product details and know you will want them. Scam artists just cut and paste whatever they can find quickly.
    4. Cloned content - Are the photos and text copied from other web sites?
    5. Misdirection - if you type in a web address, but it redirects to a different web address that can be a sign of a scam.
    6. Misrepresentation - do the terms and conditions or product and services match the advertising and content on the pages?
  • Hidden or hard to find terms and conditions - If the terms are generic and not likely to impact the use of the product or costs, it may not be an issue, but if the terms include buried requirements that cost you money or make the product of service less useful, that's a scam.
  • Few links in Search Engines- If you search in Google, Yahoo!, and other major search engines, but find few or no results to the business name or web site, the company is either new, unpopular, or a scam.
    No listing in related aggregate web sites, like the Better Business Bureau, or related web site reviews (i.e. Shopzilla,, Bizrate, etc.). The bigger and more reputable firms will show up elsewhere in listings for the industry.


If you have any questions about scams, contact Karen Swanson at (815) 758-6183.


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