Skip to main content

With news coming out of Washington that the U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), fell by 6.1% for the first quarter of 2009, it looks like the Great Recession isn’t going away anytime soon.

In addition, with unemployment inching up toward 10% and home foreclosures still on the rise, a jump in credit card fraud is the last thing that American consumers need, but that’s exactly what they’re getting.

Recent events bear this trend out. In Virginia, a former bank credit card department manager has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison for bank fraud and identity theft.

According to the Associated Press on April 28, “U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said Monday that 38-year-old Bernard James Brown Jr. of Saluda also was ordered to pay more than $65,000 in restitution to his former employer, Eastern Virginia Bankshares.

Prosecutors say Brown used a stolen access device and identifying information to withdraw money from someone’s account. After the credit card account was closed, Brown reopened it under a new name and address and continued to tap the account for cash and purchases.”

As credit card scam artists like Brown get more brazen and more creative, U.S. credit card holders are growing more anxious. According to a 2009 survey by Unisys Security Index, approximately 75 percent of Americans believe that the global financial crisis increases their risk of identity and related fraud. More than two-thirds surveyed said they are extremely concerned about other people obtaining and using their credit and debit card data, with 90 percent at least somewhat concerned. Unisys adds that credit and debit card fraud is the top security concern for people, with 68 percent saying they are extremely or very concerned; 66 percent said they are seriously concerned about unauthorized access to or misuse of personal information.

So how can credit card holders protect their cards and their money?

For starters:

  • Protect your card by keeping an eye on your Card Security Code (CSC).  When you use your card at the mall or a restaurant, or any physical site, make sure that the counter clerk doesn’t turn the card over and see your CSC. All a crook needs is your card number and your CSC. If a sales rep turns your card over and starts writing, this is a big red flag.
  • When online, use only secure sites, especially when using your credit card online.  Make sure the web site has a legitimate credit authentication service like Verisign or GlobalSign, which guarantee that your credit card information is protected. Be sure to check the URL of the site’s purchase page as well, which will always read “https” if it is secured.
  • Don’t use e-mail to communicate credit card information. One of the most common ways that card scammers get your info is by posing as a retailer who needs your card data via e-mail, also known as “phishing.”
  • Break out the scissors.  Con artists aren’t above picking through your trash looking for those ubiquitous “guaranteed” credit card offers, or for any credit card application. They’ll use that paperwork to apply for cards under your name, so make sure you destroy any card offer mailers, especially ones that come with credit cards attached.  Even go as far as considering the purchase of a personal paper shredder.

With the economy in peril, credit card con artists are very serious about sealing your card information. So prepare yourself by taking extra care in protecting your card data.

Related Stories:

•    How To Avoid Identity Theft Scams
•    Scam Busters: Online Ponzi Schemes
•    When Your Confidential Information Is Leaked

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at