Automated calls may be automatically stealing your credit card information

A friend recently emailed me about a telemarketing problem that she had encountered.  She has been receiving numerous calls from “Card Services,”  with an automated message from “Rachel”  though sometimes it could be Paul, John or Ashley.  This automated message asks if you are tired of your high credit card interest rates.  Well of course we are! But that is beside the point.  We may be interested in lowering our interest rate, but we are definitely not interested in giving away our credit card information, and that is the whole point of this telephone call.  During the course of the message, it says press (1) to a representative and (3) to stop receiving these calls.  However, you best best is to simply hang up the phone or you may be drawn deeper into the latest round of credit card theft.

In this case, my friend called her telephone company to report the telephone calls.  The phone company called it a scam and advised her to never give out her credit card information over the telephone.  Your legitimate card service provide will already know your information and your number, and will send lower interest rate offers in the mail, not through automated (robo) calls.

The telephone company said the Federal Trade Commission was aware of this scam, but that it was important to report it.  The FTC also recommends that you file a complete with you State Consumer Protective Agency.

But she’s not the only one to receive unwanted phone calls trying to “harvest” her credit card information.  In Maine, Attorney General William J. Schneider recently warned residents of this very same type of theft.  He says
“There are reports from Maine consumers who have received the automated phone calls asking individuals to enter their debit or credit card number,” said Schneider in a news release. “Never provide any personal banking information based on an automated phone call. If you get one of these robo-calls, immediately hang up and contact our consumer hotline.”
But what about the do not call list?  Isn’t that supposed to help stop these types of telephone calls.  Actually the Do Not Call Registry  can provide you with some level of protection from annoying sales calls, but only from legitimate companies that actually follow the rules.  These thieves don’t have any rules, do the registry doesn’t apply to them.
In Indiana one consumer talked to the local newspaper about the hundreds of annoying robo calls he was receiving.  The Journal Gazette looked into the matter and found,
“So far this year, the attorney general has received 5,000 formal complaints about these robo calls/scams, but that isn’t necessarily a good measure of how many calls are being made. How many people go to the trouble of complaining, Sweeney asked – one in 10? One in 100? With computers, these scammers can make millions of calls quite fast.

If it’s not bad enough already, a bill is in Congress that would allow people to make robo calls to cellphones. If that happens, you won’t even be able to complain about the scammers.”

Just imagine what calls like that could do for those on limited budgets and having pre-paid or limited minutes each month to use.

If you receive these automated calls, don’t answer automatically.  Never give out your credit card or personal information over the phone.  Beware of calls that are unsolicited, especially those that are prerecorded.  Use your voicemail and caller ID to help you determine which calls you need to answer and return.  This also helps keep a record of the calls and the telephone numbers these calls may be coming from that you can later use to report them. Report violations of the Do Not Call registry to the registry service, as well as to you phone company, the FTC, and your State Consumer Protection Hotline.

Consumer resources:

Recognize and fight phone fraud  – FTC

The Do Not Call Registry

State by state listing of Attorney General Reporting Offices and Contact Information for reporting Fraud