Oh my goodness. I literally just wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about protecting oneself against identity theft, and today I had a close call with it.
Here’s what happened: I received a call on my phone from a number that I did not recognize. I was greeted with an automated message telling me that it was important that I contact my credit card company immediately, but reassured me that there was nothing wrong with my account. I was then given an option to “press 1” to speak with someone from my credit card company.
Shortly the phone was picked up by someone who spoke English but with a terrible foreign accent (I literally had to ask her to repeat herself multiple times). I have had some conversations with folks at credit card companies who have bad foreign accents before, so that in and of itself did not alarm me.
The woman informed me that because I had been paying my bills on time I was eligible for a lower interest rate. She said that they were trying to stay competitive with other companies who were offering lower rates, so they were offering special interest rates to customers like us who pay their bills on time. Would you be interested in that, Ma’am? Now, even though the hubs and I don’t typically carry balances on our cards, I am certainly interested in having a lower interest rate just in case. So I said yes.
The woman had such a bad accent that at first I thought I must have missed it when she told me which card company she represented. We have several cards, so I asked her which company she was with. Here was the first red flag- she didn’t know! She told me that she was working with customers from three or four different credit issuers to help lower their rates- she listed the companies and two of them were ones that we have cards with. She told me that she was calling about my card that started with XXXX XX, and she proceeded to read me the first six digits on the credit card that we use most often.
She said she just needed me to “confirm the last eight digits of the card.” She also needed me to confirm the expiration date of the card. She actually sounded really convincing; when I protested that I was uncomfortable giving that information out over the phone, especially since she had called me (rather than me calling the card company), she rattled off a clearly canned response as credit card company reps are prone to doing. She was actually so convincing that I did, stupidly, tell her the expiration date on my card. But she persisted on her need to know the last eight digits “to confirm your balance and make sure that you have the card in your possession.” I channelled my inner Rain Man and informed her of my exact balance to the penny and told her that I was quite certain that the card was in my possession because it was in my hands as we were speaking. I dug in. I was NOT going to tell her the last eight digits and did not care if it meant giving up a better interest rate.
Once it became clear that I was not going to give her info, she put me on hold (presumably to go find someone more convincing than her, I guess?) and I hung up. I immediately called my credit card company and the representative informed me that I already have the best rate available and unfortunately I am not eligible for a better rate at this time. They did not call me to try to get me a lower rate. The chick with the horrific accent had tried to defraud me!
Sadly, she almost did. The two big red flags for me were the fact that she could not immediately tell me which company she was calling from and that she demanded the last 8 digits on the card. I’ve NEVER had a credit card company rep ask me to confirm any more than the last 4 digits.
I spoke at length about this with the *real* rep from my credit card company, who told me that the first six or eight digits on the card are not unique to the card holder (so it was not surprising that they could read me the first six digits). This also explained why they wanted the last eight digits so badly- those are the ones specific to me that they really needed to commit some serious fraud against me. The rep told me that as long as I had not given out my last 8 digits I would probably be ok, but I was worried about the fact that I had given them the expiration date. My card company will be doing a “security closing” on that account for me just in case, mainly for my own piece of mind.
I can’t believe that I literally just wrote a post about identity theft a few weeks ago and I was almost fooled by this! It also disturbs me that the thieves obviously got a hold of my phone number somewhere and that they must have somehow had some idea that I had cards with a couple of those companies.
In case anyone is wondering, I do not really have that much in common with Rain Man (I don’t think!) We had just paid the bill today and the exact balance was fresh in my brain. 🙂
Has anyone else been the victim of a clever scheme to get your information out of you?