Card cracking is a type of scam that typically targets individuals, especially young adults and college students who might be open to the prospect of making some “easy money,” or empathetic older adults who fall prey to a “sad story” from someone claiming to be in need or danger. Card cracking is a modern version of letters that used to arrive from faraway lands, sent by a “prince” whose family or inheritance can only be saved if you can help them by holding onto their money until they can escape their enemies. Of course, in return for your help the “prince” will happily share his riches with you in return. All you need to do is provide your bank account information so he can send you their money for safekeeping, and everyone can live happily after. Even today, one may occasionally find an email version of these letters in one’s spam folder.
In today’s digital world, card crackers lure people with false promises into sharing their debit card and PIN information, which the scammers then use to withdraw money or make unauthorized transactions. Victims usually end up losing their money and may even become criminally liable as an accomplice. Here’s how card cracking scams work:
Step 1: Recruitment
Scammers often approach potential victims through social media, text messages, or in person. They may pose as a friend, acquaintance, or financial institution representative, or even brazenly stand on the sidewalk outside the entrance of a financial institution.
Step 2: Promises
The scammer will offer the mark a tempting proposition that makes them feel good about themselves for helping someone out and smart for making some money at the same time – a “win-win” for everyone: “If you could just share your debit card information temporarily to facilitate this transaction, or help me cash this $10,000 check, I promise to give you $1,000!”
Step 3: Sharing of Personal Information
The victim is asked to provide their debit card number, PIN, access to their online banking credentials, or deposit the check in person at their local bank branch. Scammers may also request personal information like social security numbers.
Step 4: Account Takeover
Once the scammer has the victim’s information, they use it to make withdrawals or transactions that drain the account and leave the victim with a loss. Or worse, they take a sizeable chunk of the deposited funds and leave the rest in the account as for the victim’s “reward” for their assistance, until the deposited check bounces and the victim is now liable for the money and faces charges of check fraud.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious of unsolicited offers that promise quick money for sharing your financial information. If someone you don’t know claims you’re the only one who can help them and it involves money, just say no.
Protect Your Personal Information
We can never say this often enough: never, ever share your debit card number, PIN, or online banking credentials with anyone, especially strangers. Financial institutions do not require this information to send money. No one will ever ask you for this information unless they intend to take your money from you without your permission.
Don’t Trust, Verify
If someone approaches you with a financial opportunity, verify their identity. Contact your financial institution directly and confirm the legitimacy of any offers. Legitimate people and institutions won’t mind these kinds of inquiries.
Monitor Your Accounts
Regularly check bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. Report any discrepancies to your bank immediately.
Be aware of common scams and how they work. Knowledge is your best defense against falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
Report Suspicious Activity
If you suspect you have encountered a card cracking scam or have been a victim, report it to your local law enforcement and your bank. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
Social Media Privacy Settings
Adjust your social media privacy settings to limit the personal information that strangers can access about you. If you aren’t a public figure, your account should be private, not public. Scammers often use social media to identify potential victims. You don’t need to share everything with people you don’t know. Do not accept friend or follow requests from people you do not know, this is the first step to try to draw you in. Beware of strange requests from your current Friends list. Social Media account hacking is a common way to obtain a list of potential scam targets.
Don’t respond to quizzes or games on social media that ask you about your car, your pet’s name, where you went to school, or your first concert. These are often bait traps to try to steal your ID or passwords.
Card cracking scams prey on people’s desire for easy money, but they can have serious financial and legal consequences. By staying informed and cautious, you can protect yourself from falling victim to such scams. The legal consequences for participating in check fraud can be severe.
At Lafayette Federal Credit Union, we are committed to protecting your security by helping to safeguard your money and your identity. Contact us to learn how we can work with you to boost your financial well-being.