Fraudulent credit card charges are not a new thing. However, thieves are getting more and more clever with posting innocent looking, somewhat familiar charges, like recurring small amounts from iTunes, Spotify, or Amazon Video, to skate through undetected. And seniors are at a particularly higher risk for being scammed.
These types of fraudulent charges may be a scammer using your credit card to purchase on their account to see if you are paying attention prior to making larger purchases. Or they may be a charge designed to look deceptively familiar that instead goes to a fraudulent company masked as the familiar one. With the thief pocketing the revenue.(1)
They may even be legitimate charges for a service the senior didn’t realize they had signed up for. A borderline practice some companies use to rack up ongoing fees from unsuspecting customers.
Seniors are targets. The FBI cites the existence of nest eggs, an overall more trusting generation, and a fear of reporting as the main reasons seniors are preyed upon. Whether it is pride or worry that relatives may see it as a sign of declining mental capacity, many seniors won’t report these issues, and thieves exploit that tendency.(2)
The most important thing to do to prevent fraudulent charges it to closely monitor your credit-card statements or those of your loved one if they will grant you permission. Look for obvious purchases that you know you would never make, like in a state or country you’ve never visited, or a product you would never use. Look for recurring charges, charges that end with “.95” or “.99”, or the famous “$9.84” (3), small charges scammers hope won’t get noticed.(4)
If you find a fraudulent charge
Determine if the charge is legitimate if you can. It might be that you just don’t recognize it. Businesses operate under different names than the name that appears on their billing identification appearing on statements. Usually, a phone number will be attached to the item on your statement. Call it to verify it is indeed a purchase you made.
Search online for the merchant name and “fraudulent charges” or “what is the credit-card charge (merchant name) for?” The power of the internet to turn up other consumers posts about the topic is enormous. Many times these searches will identify that the charge is either fraudulent, or a sneaky recurring charge you didn’t realize you had committed to such as magazine “rewards” for taking a survey or a service from a site you visited.
Call to complain or you can go to your state’s attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. Cancel the credit-card so no further charges are applied. Make sure you cancel the service as well, if it turned out to be a real one, so there’s no chance the credit card company passes the recurring charge through to the new card, a common practice to ensure continuity of service in legitimate subscriptions and services. It also prevents the merchant from racking up service fees against you that they could send to collections or report to credit services if left unpaid.(4)
If the charges are fraudulent, you might want to figure out where your account was compromised, somewhere around the last legitimate charge, and call the merchant and report it, and call your local police as well. It could be the result of a skimming device where you ran the card, or an untrustworthy employee. Spare the next consumer the same fate and report it.
Anyone who thinks they may be the victim of a credit or debit card scheme should contact local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Check Your Statements For This Long-Running Scam, Money Tips, https://www.moneytips.com/check-your-statements-for-this-long-running-scam
- Protect Elderly Relatives from Credit Card Fraud, ABC News,BEVERLY BLAIR HARZOG https://abcnews.go.com/Business/protect-elderly-relative-credit-card-fraud/story?id=16429891
- How to Spot and Dispute Fraudulent Credit Card Charges, Nerd Wallet, Lindsay Konsko https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/dispute-fraudulent-credit-card-charges/
- Why That $9.84 Charge On Your Card May Be Cause For Alarm, HuffPost https://www.huffpost.com/entry/984-charge-credit-debit-card-fraud_n_4675054