‘Today’ financial editor Jean Chatzky explains the importance of protecting your security code, and how thieves are trying to steal it
Wondering how important that three-digit number on the back of your credit card is? It's the latest piece of information being sought by thieves. “Today” financial editor Jean Chatzky offers advice on how you can avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
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Over the holidays I — like many people in this country — did a huge portion of my shopping online. Why not? I figured. The selection is great. Shipping was (over the holidays at least) largely for free. And it's open 24 hours. Perfect, in other words, for anyone sick of mall traffic.
This year, though, I noticed it wasn't enough to simply type my credit card number into the browser at J. Crew or GapKids or whatever secure site I was patronizing. They all wanted the three-digit security code off the back of my MasterCard as well. I gave it up willingly.
But a warning issued last week from the New York State Banking Department got
me thinking twice. It warned of a new scam in which this code is the key.
Here's how it works: Scammers, who have already obtained your credit card number in other ways, call your house pretending to be the fraud and security department of your credit card company. They sound very official (they may even provide you with a phony badge number) and they claim your card was flagged by security for demonstrating an unusual purchase pattern.
You deny making the purchase. Then the scam artist reassures you it will show up on your next statement. The scammer then gives you a phony control number to document the fraud claim and asks you to provide the three-digit security number from the card to prove that the card is in your possession.
Once you give that up, the scammer has you. He or she now has everything he needs to make a purchase with your card either over the phone or on the Internet. There's no clerk there to raise an eyebrow at the fact that John Doe he doesn't really look like Jane Smith. And since you've already been alerted to fraudulent activity on your account, you're less likely to call in the troops.