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SCAM: Beware of credit card offers

Lynette Veit:  Greene Publishing, Inc.

The latest phone scam involves an offer of a new low credit card rate of 6.9 percent that the caller says “you have been pre-qualified for!”

Sounds good, doesn't it? The problem is, it's a load of bull.

A local woman received such a call on her cell phone. When she answered, she heard a recorded message of the offer, along with instructions to “press 1 to speak to a representative.” After she did so, to see what would happen, a “representative” who identified himself as “Tim” came on the line and repeated the same message; when she asked how he got her name, he replied that his company, which he did not identify, had gotten a list of prospective clients from several law firms.

The woman, who did not have anywhere near the “substantial amount of credit card debt” mentioned in the recording ($10,000 or more) and had never spoken to any lawyers, asked the caller how he got her cell phone number.  Suddenly, “Tim” hung up, and the line went dead. When she tried to call back, using the number that appeared on her Caller ID, she reached another woman who sold cosmetics from her home, who stated that, no, she had not just tried to call two minutes earlier. Her number had been spoofed by “Tim.”

The scammer was hoping to trick the person he called into “signing up” for a bogus offer; and of course, he would need all kinds of personal identifying information to do so – name, address, date of birth, and social security number, and bank account numbers for starters – all the usual information generally asked for on a credit card application, along with whatever else he could get; the information would then undoubtedly be used to steal her identity and run up fraudulent charges on a fraudulent credit card in her name. Worse, even if the victim discovered the fraud, terminated the account and wasn't held liable for the charges, there is still a scammer out there with all the personal information he needs to try again.

While a 6.9 percent interest rate is tempting, don't fall for it. Credit card companies don't call you and make such offers over the phone, although you yourself can initiate the call and fill out an application that way. You can also apply for low interest credit cards online. There are even credit cards that offer zero interest rates for the first six, 12, or 18 months, depending on the card, and you must still complete the application before the company can determine eligibility, and make sure you understand their rules about cash withdrawals, which may have different, higher rates, and whether or not balance transfers are allowed and how much the charge for that is.

Generally, if you are pre-approved by a credit card company for a special offer, the company will mail you a notification along with an application you must complete and return if you want to take advantage of it.

Greene Publishing, Inc. regularly runs Scam Alerts in the paper to warn readers about the latest tricks scammers have up their sleeves. If you receive a scam phone call, or know of one that is making the rounds among your friends and neighbors, contact Greene Publishing, Inc. at (850) 973-4141. We'll run a Scam Alert about it to get the information out to our readers.

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