Attorney General Alerts Marylanders of Recent Credit Card Scam

February 24, 2000

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. wants consumers to be aware of a new telemarketing scam. Last week, some Marylanders received phone calls from telemarketers who said they were offering a credit card fraud protection plan, but who in fact appear to be fraud artists themselves.

The callers said they represented a "fraud watch" service and were "mandated" by VISA to call all of its cardholders. The callers asked the consumers to verify their account numbers, providing the first digit of the consumer's credit card number and asking the consumer to supply the remaining digits. The callers said that the consumers should purchase a credit card protection plan, at a cost of $250, because criminals have been stealing credit card numbers over the Internet and consumers are liable for those unauthorized charges. In fact, federal law limits loss due to unauthorized credit card charges to $50 if the cardmember reports the unauthorized charges promptly. A VISA company fraud specialist said VISA did not give any mandate to these telemarketers to call its cardholders.

"Fortunately, the consumers who called us knew enough not to give out their credit card numbers," said Attorney General Curran. "But I am very concerned that other consumers might be taken in by this scam, and either pay for services that don't exist or have their credit card numbers misused by crooks."

These calls are similar to others that have misled consumers around the country in recent months. Last fall the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought complaints against two Arizona-based companies and another in Montreal that it said were persuading consumers to disclose credit card numbers, which resulted in unauthorized charges on those credit cards. Some of those same consumers were also charged anywhere from $200 to $400 for "protection services" that did not exist.

"This scam simply underscores the importance of never disclosing your credit card number over the telephone to anyone you do not know," Attorney General Curran said.

Media inquiries: Sean Caine (410) 576-6357
All other inquiries: Consumer Protection Division (410) 528-8662