Most credit card users know that it's important to check monthly statements for suspicious charges. Obviously, large sums that you never charged should be reported and generally can be removed. But how often do you just skip over smaller charges? You know, the ones that are labeled with odd company or personal names like you get when you buy an item using PayPal?
It's hard to remember every small purchase we make. But there's a new Better Business Bureau warning that is very specific. It is telling consumers to look on their credit card statements for a charge of $9.84. It turns out that there are gobs of these charges popping up, and they're most often evidence that you've been scammed.
What's Going On
Behind this widespread fraud are scammers who have gotten their hands on lots of people's credit card numbers. (Such thefts happen all the time -- Target (TGT) was recently and famously a major corporate victim, but it's far from alone.)
In cases like these, thieves often don't use the accounts to charge hefty sums. They don't have to. In fact, when charges are much smaller, they often go unnoticed -- and even if we notice an odd one, we might not bother to investigate or complain. That gives the scammers more time to bilk consumers before they're found out. And small charges adds up: A $10 charge on a million accounts is $10 million.
In the case of this widespread $9.84 charge, check the company or name associated with it. Often, it'll be "EETSAC.COM." And if you contact the company, you might be assured that the charge will be refunded. Then again, that might not happen.
What to Do
If you see such a charge on your credit card statement, contact the issuing bank immediately. Report the charge, ask that it be removed, have the card canceled, and request a new card.
As the BBB points out, "In the United States and Canada if your credit card is lost, stolen, or used without your permission, you may be responsible for up to $50. If you report the loss before the card is used, you're not responsible for any unauthorized charges. In addition, many cardholders are protected by zero liability policies set in place by credit card companies."
You might also want to change some of your money-management habits. For instance, favor credit cards over debit cards, because regulations protecting you against fraud are stronger for credit cards than debit cards. If you often buy things online or over the phone, handing out your credit card number in the process, be selective in whom you do business with. The FBI offers even more tips on avoiding credit card fraud.
This is just one of many scams perpetrated upon a trusting public. Another recent one involves people getting "robocalled" by computers, offering interest rate reductions on credit cards -- for a fee.
Those who fall for this come-on call a different number and end up talking to a human who asks for their credit card number, among other things. They're then charged as much as $700 or more by the scammers. Ironically, the con artists are providing a "service" that anyone can do for themselves: You can always call your credit card company to request a lower rate, and depending on your history with them, you might even get it.
Yet another scam is being used by criminals who have already gotten hold of your credit card number. They call you, pretending to be employed by the credit card company, and warn about some suspicious activity on your card. They'll read you your number, and then ask if you are in possession of your card. When you say you are, they'll ask you to confirm the three-digit security number on the back, which they don't have. (Your real credit card company would already know this number.) Once you read it to them, they've got it, and they'll tell you it's correct. Now, they can use your number anywhere.
Keep in Mind
There are lots of scams being used, and new ones popping up all the time. Skepticism and suspicion can serve us all well. Regarding the $9.84 charge, though, keep the following things in mind:
It could be legitimate! You might actually have charged a sandwich at an airport, for example, that cost $9.84.
The spurious charge might be for a different amount. Now that some folks are on the lookout for $9.84 charges, some scammers will start charging a different small sum designed to evade notice.
And on the bright side, credit card companies hate these scams too, and once they spot patterns, they often take steps to prevent damage to customers and their own accounts.
The bottom line, though, is that we all need to be wary when dealing with credit -- and debit -- cards.
Motley Fool contributor Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
14 Money Mistakes to Avoid in 2014
See a $9.84 Charge on Your Credit Card Bill? You've Been Scammed!
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Mistakes on your credit history can keep you from getting a loan that you want to buy your next home or car, but they can also have consequences you'd never imagine. Increasingly, insurance companies, apartment rental agents, and even prospective employers order copies of your credit report to see if you're financially responsible. Be sure to take advantage of your free credit check at the government's annualcreditreport.com website to make sure the three big credit-rating agencies have everything right before mistakes come back to bite you.
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Everyone likes a tax break, and one of the best ones for you to use involves making contributions to a tax-favored retirement account. By putting money in an IRA or 401(k), you can reduce your current taxable income and save on your taxes while also preparing for the future. With 401(k)s, your employer might even chip in a bit on your behalf. Even when times are tough, finding even small amounts to save can put time on your side and make a big difference down the road.
Many investors found out the hard way this year that bonds aren't as safe as they thought, with some major bond funds posting double-digit percentage losses in 2013. Despite those losses, bonds still carry substantial risk in 2014, with many calling for imminent interest-rate hikes that would erode their value further. Even now, bond rates are so low that they don't compensate you much for their risk.
If you pay full price for just about anything these days, you're paying too much. The rise of deep-discount stores has led to falling prices at stores and shopping malls. Moreover, online tools like coupon sites, daily-deal offers, discounted gift cards, and cash-back credit-card deals can cut your costs as well. With all these tools, you won't find many situations in which you have no chance of getting a bargain on the items you want.
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If you don't have a will, a power of attorney for financial and health-care matters, and an advance directive to tell medical professionals whether you want certain life-preserving measures taken if something happens to you, then you're putting your family at risk. Many people don't have even these basic estate-planning documents, but getting them in place is easier and less expensive than most believe. Get your affairs taken care of in 2014 and save your loved ones some big future hassles.
Resolving to be more financially astute and to avoid common mistakes will help you get your finances in order more quickly. These tips should give you more money to help you meet all your financial goals.