Credit card scams

Don't fall for scammers' tricks

Scammers have clever ways to get you to give them your credit card details over the phone, by email or using text messages. They may even try to take the card itself by stealing your wallet.

Our tips show you how to identify and avoid credit card scams.

How credit card scams work

Scammers don't always need your credit card to take your money. In more than 80% of cases, they steal the card details and then start spending. In 2016-17 they clocked up $442 million in fraudulent transactions that way.

Scammers can get your credit card details by:

  • contacting you online or by phone, pretending to be your bank or another company, and tricking you into giving them your credit card details
  • accessing information on unsecured websites
  • getting details from your online shopping activities
  • installing spyware on your computer so they can see the files you use, websites you visit and information you store. Spyware can be installed remotely.

In 2016-17 alone, Australians were defrauded of almost $36 million due to lost or stolen credit cards.

Some scammers also steal new cards from letterboxes, skim the details off cards to use later, or apply for cards using stolen identities.

If scammers know your PIN, they can get cash advances from an ATM using a 'cloned' credit card (where your details have been copied onto the magnetic strip of another card).

Case study: Scammers get Veronica's credit card details

Veronica was expecting a new credit card woman on the phonewhen she received a call from a man saying he was from her bank. The man apologised for the delay in sending the card but said he needed her to confirm a few details so the card could be sent.

She thought the request was a little strange but didn't question it. The man asked her for her address and date of birth and she gave this information to him.

She started to get suspicious when he hung up on her after she asked him why he was after those details.

Later that afternoon, Veronica called her bank and was told that her phone banking had been activated that day and the limit on her credit card had already been spent.

The information she had given the man was enough for him to answer the bank's security questions and activate phone banking. The scammer then transferred money from her savings account to her credit card so that a further cash withdrawal could be taken from her credit card.

Veronica realised that mail, including the credit card, had been stolen from her letterbox.

Veronica eventually got her money back from the bank, after reporting the incident to them.

She became very wary of scams and regularly checked her bank account statements to ensure all the purchases were hers. She also put a lock on her letterbox so only she could access her mail.

Warning signs of credit card fraud

Your credit card details may have been taken by a scammer if:

  • there are purchases on your credit card statement that you didn't make
  • you have accidently given your credit card details (on the phone or internet) to someone you later realise is not to be trusted
  • you have lost or had your credit card stolen.

Protecting yourself from credit card scams

These are simple things you can do to protect yourself from credit card scams:

  • If someone calls or emails you claiming to be from your bank or another organisation and asks for personal information or online account details, do not give it to them, no matter how legitimate they seem. Instead, call the organisation yourself (use the internet or phone book to independently get their correct contact details) to check if it is legitimate.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements for purchases you cannot account for, and report them to your bank immediately.
  • Do not give your PIN to anyone, and choose passwords that would be difficult for others to work out.
  • Never use public computers (e.g. in libraries) for online banking.
  • Ensure the anti-virus software installed on your computer is up-to-date.
  • Be wary when installing applications onto your phone - they can be used by scammers to steal account details. See the ACCC's SCAMwatch webpage on mobile phone scams.

For more information on online scam protection, see the Australian Goverment website about protecting yourself online

What to do if a scammer uses your credit card

  1. Call your bank to report the scam and ask them to help you get your money back.
  2. File a police report.
  3. Get a copy of your credit report, to check that no-one is using your name to run up debts.
  4. Warn your family and friends.

Scammers only need your credit card details to take your money. Always be vigilant about protecting your personal information, and report it immediately if you have been scammed. 

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Last updated: 03 Apr 2018