In a recent card cracking scam targeting cash-strapped millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time they’re using social media to make it happen.
What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters look for victims who are short on funds, such as students with large loans hanging over their heads, struggling single parents, or young professionals searching for a job. People who are desperate for cash also prove to be desperate enough to believe almost anything that will help them earn a quick buck. Unfortunately, this vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach and easy plundering that scammers gain through social media, makes card cracking more successful in luring victims than many other scams.
What is card cracking?
Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post that appears like the dozens you scroll through every day. The post may show up on the victim’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, or Instagram. It will always showcase some form of quick cash. You can enter an easy-to-win contest with a huge reward for the winner. Or, your dream job could instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions. It may even be a giveaway, such as a cash bonus or a gift card that you’ll earn just for sharing some information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN, or your online banking credentials.
Once the scammers have this information, they can do any number of things with their prize, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree. They may even help themselves to the funds you have in your account.
Other forms of card cracking
In another iteration of card cracking, scammers tug on victims’ heartstrings, claiming frozen personal accounts and no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. Once the checks are in, the scammer will cash in on the amount, and a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer will be long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.
In yet a third scheme, card crackers promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their account. Victims often rationalize this crime by assuring themselves that they’re not actually playing a part in the fraud. Of course, they are still held accountable when the scammers are busted.
Sadly, falling victim to a scam can be especially harmful to a millennial who is just beginning to build their credit history.
Don’t be the next victim. Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:
1.) Never share personal information with a stranger
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but this rule is so important. Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you can not verify with absolute certainty. You wouldn’t think of giving your checking account number to a solicitor you met on the street; why would you share it with a stranger online?
Of course, victims of card cracking and similar schemes believe the scammers are legitimate. That’s why it’s important to authenticate a web address, company, or offer by asking for a street address or phone number. Additionally, by educating yourself about these scams, you’ll be able to spot one immediately.
2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is
Remembering this rule of thumb will go a long way toward helping you recognize scammers. Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe the Facebook post that promises you’ll land that dream job you’ve been searching for if you only hand over your account passwords. Ignore the offer for a free gift card and don’t believe the sob story about frozen accounts leaving people penniless.
3.) Never cash a check for someone else
You are not a credit union or a check-cashing business. If someone approaches you in person or online and asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that a financial institution will honor their check.
4.) Report suspicious activity
If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!
Scammers may be smart, but you can be smarter. When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll be able to spot most scams before it’s too late.
Your Turn: Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media platforms? Share what tipped you off in the comments!
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