By Scott Prater
Occasionally, credit card companies send out e-mails to their card holders announcing new services or offerings. Consumers have become accustomed to these types of notices. After all, it’s part of the ritual of using a credit card.
Unfortunately for consumers, scammers also count on these typical e-mails. They make it easier for the scam to go unnoticed.
Jim Chapman, Agency Organization Program Coordinator for the Government Purchase Card program here, says emboldened scammers often send fraudulent e-mails to unsuspecting cardholders, even here at Schriever.
A typical e-mail scam reads as follows, “We are reviewing our accounts and noticed a discrepancy with your account. Please provide us your account number and your password. We’ll check out your account, correct any problems and get back to you.”
“The idea is to get consumers to provide their account information,” Mr. Chapman said. “The e-mail even has an authentic looking U.S. Bank logo attached, so it looks real. Now, U.S. Bank would never send out such an e-mail, but since it looks real, some folks fall for it and end up unwittingly handing over their credit card information to scammers.”
This scam technique is known as “phishing,” and is growing in popularity among scam artists because it’s a fairly easy way to gain valuable information.
Mr. Chapman and Jacque Donley, Alternate AOPM at Schriever, said GPC cardholders and approving officials have reported seeing this type of e-mail in their inboxes this year.
“One GPC card holder reported to us that she received this type of notice in her mailbox at home,” Ms. Donley said. “That’s funny because, U.S. Bank, the financial organization which operates the GPC program, doesn’t know any GPC cardholder’s home addresses. The bank only knows the card holder’s name, duty phone and duty address.”
Over the past six months, scammers have locked onto the GPC system, according to Mr. Chapman, so it’s more important than ever for card holders and approving officials to monitor their GPC accounts on a weekly basis.
“Since January, we’ve experienced, 15 cases of card compromise or electronic theft by scammers among our GPC accounts at Schriever,” Mr. Chapman said. “By comparison, we experienced a total of four cases last year.”
Other than remaining vigilant about monitoring their accounts and making sure to safeguard their account data, there’s little else GPC cardholders can do to prevent scammers from stealing credit card information.
Somehow, scammers are obtaining credit card numbers unbeknownst to cardholders and using them to make fraudulent purchases. Mr. Chapman said on two occasions this year, thieves obtained and used GPC card numbers before they were even used by the authorized cardholders, so there was no way the cardholders could have mistakenly provided the information over the telephone or internet.
“The idea is if you look at your accounts regularly you’ll be able to spot suspicious activity and be able to inform the bank of the fraud,” Mr. Chapman said. “Most of the time, the scammers will make a couple of small purchases just to check if they can get approval from the bank. Then, once that happens they’ll ring up a $5,000 purchase, for example.”
Another scam occurs when an overseas vendor/merchant charges a GPC card for a certain amount and then issues a credit on that same card. The way this scam works is: the merchant issues a credit back to the original card, but the credit is for less than the original purchase. Plus, they use the differing currency exchange rates to make additional profit.
Ms. Donley also said scammers will use stolen GPC card numbers for hotel, food and travel purchases, also a key indicator that the purchases are fraudulent.
Ms. Donley and Mr. Chapman provide classes for GPC card holders and approving officials monthly and sometimes even offer classes more often depending on demand. They teach cardholders about proper uses for the card, how to monitor their accounts and what to do if they suspect the account has been compromised.
Mr. Chapman said GPC card holders are not held responsible for fraudulent purchases by third parties and that U.S. Bank officials handle compromised accounts professionally. They usually shut down the compromised accounts and quickly issue new cards so that GPC cardholders can continue on with their mission.