Where there is a will there is always a way, and when it comes to scammers, the will is ever present. Every day it seems there is some newfound technique for trying to rob people of their hard-earned money, and this one is no different.
In this case, criminals are using a technology that was meant to make our credit and debit cards more secure against us. What's worse is there could be some time before we even realize it.
It's all about the microchips that have become the predominant way for us to pay. While safer because they are not as easily duplicated and stolen as the magnetic strips, they are still not entirely secure.
When your chip is not actually your chip
As far as credit card scams go, this one is a bit more difficult to pull off successfully. Essentially, it relies on people activating new credit cards but not using them for a while. How does it work?
Well, it starts with the criminals knowing you are receiving a new credit or debit card in the mail and taking it before it gets to you. They then remove the chip from the card and replace it with an expired one.
Watch the video below and you can see how easy it is to pull this scam.
The card, expired chip and all, is then put back in your mail with the hope that you will open and activate it. Only you know all the necessary information to activate the card, so simply stealing it does not do much good.
At that point you will have activated a card you no longer actually have and now the criminals, who put your newly-activated chip on a different card, can go on a spending spree. Meanwhile, you have what appears to be a legitimate and ready-to-use card that at this point is anything but.
Who is being targeted?
The scam, which was discovered by the U.S. Secret Service, seems to be targeting corporate recipients. Why that is, is not entirely known, but speculation is that it has to do with corporations having more money, new cards being more easily detectable in the mail, or that their usage patterns may leave more time before something gets noticed.
That is not to say it could not happen to non-corporate cards, because there is no reason why it couldn't.
You are a target too! Therefore whenever you receive a new card, it is important to be mindful and make sure everything is exactly the way it should be.
This is what you do
As is the case with most scams, paying attention is key. In this case, the first thing you will want to do is take a good look at your card once it arrives in your mailbox.
The process of removing the chip tends to warp the plastic some as well as leave some marks around where the chip is (or was). If you notice anything like that with your new card, you will not want to activate it online or over the phone.
Instead, just to be sure, you will want to take the card to your bank to activate it. They will be able to tell you if the chip is legitimate or not. If it is, feel free to go on and use the card as normal. If it isn't, then it will not be activated and no harm will be done.
If you are unable to get to a bank to activate your card and need to use it quickly, the other option is to activate it and then immediately try to make a purchase with the chip. If it works, your card is good. If not, it is a sign that your chip has been tampered with and you will want to cancel the card as soon as possible.
But if you have any concerns at all, ask your bank to issue you a new card.
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