Credit card fraud, identity theft explode in the pandemic

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Credit card fraud and identity theft is exploding as thieves prey on consumer’s pandemic spending habits and desire for contactless shopping.

“I was like wait a minute, why does this say $40 dollars on here?”

When Nathan Grant’s father passed away, he needed to do a change of address for his father’s mail. Wanting to stay contactless during the pandemic, he searched for help online.

“I went to Google like we all do and I searched how to change your address online,” Grant said.

He went with the first result that popped up but later discovered a service that usually costs about a dollar was a whole lot more.

“Then I went back on my transaction history and I saw a $40 dollar charge,” Grant said.

Grant, a senior credit card industry analyst for Credit Card Insider had been duped.

“The website I went to was the first Google result but it wasn’t the United State Postal site even though they fraudulently use the United States Postal logos,” Grant said.

Fake websites are just one of the ways scammers are working to steal your credit card information and identity.

Mason Miranda, a credit industry specialist, said as more people are turning to touchless ways to shop and do chores, credit card fraud is skyrocketing.

“Credit card fraud is one of the fastest growing forms of ID theft,” he said

According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit card fraud jumped 104-percent from the first quarter to 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Putting that into perspective, a recent study from Credit Card Insider showed the number of fraud reports during the same timeframe in 2017, 2018 and 2019 only grew by 27 percent.

“It’s kind of a big deal,” Miranda said.

The scammers are clever, sending emails that look like they’re from a real retailer but instead want your personal information.

“Phishing emails to phone call scams or even in-person skimming and shimming,” Miranda said.

Earlier this week, skimmers were discovered in the card readers of pumps at a gas station in New Kent.

So what can you do? Use your credit cards over a debit cards.

“Credit cards are just so much more secure than debit cards,” Grant said.

In addition, he suggests you monitor your statements and dispute charges you don’t recognize.

Other safe options include using digital wallets like Apple and Google Pay or a virtual credit. Card issuers like Capital One, Citi Bank, Brex and Strip all offer them.

“We have seen that that has helped keep that credit card fraud down quite a bit because a virtual credit card is mainly a one time use credit card or at least a limited use credit card number,” Grant said.

Credit Card Insider said it is important to guard the information that can be used to open a new account, that includes not only your social security number but annual income, cost of rent or mortgage and personal information like your date of birth.

They also recommend you keep an eye on your credit. The three main credit report agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion offer free credit reports thank to the Free Credit Reporting Act. You may also want to put a freeze on your credit to prevent thieves from opening up accounts in your name.

A tip to help distinguish fake websites from the real thing- look for that secure lock symbol next to the address in the browser.

“Another way to tell is the address itself. If it says https rather than just HTTP that means it is a secure site,” Grant said.

Grant was able to cancel his credit card and get a new one and said he’s looking more carefully those websites.

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