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.
%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-963%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.