“It’s easier to steal one $1 from one million people than $1 million from one person”

The FTC wants you to know about a recent trend in credit card fraud. So far the thieves have been primarily located outside of the US. The charges were collected by more than 16 dummy corporations the ring had set up in various Eastern European and Central Asian countries. There are probably many more such theives that go undetected.

These theives make small charges to a large number of credit cards. Charges are usually between $0.20 and $10. But these little charges have added up to over $10 million in stolen money. The FTC suspects that the amount could be much higher. The small amount often gets little attention from consumers, especially those that travel and are used to seeing oddly named miscellaneous fees on their account.

After a 9-month investigation a federal court has halted an elaborate international scheme that used identity theft to place more than $10 million in bogus charges on consumers’ credit and debit cards, pending a trial. According to the memo:

“The defendants, using phony company names resembling real companies, and information taken from identity theft victims in the United States, opened more than 100 merchant accounts with companies that process charges to consumers’ credit and debit card accounts, according to the FTC complaint. The FTC believes the defendants may have run credit checks on the identity theft victims first, to be sure they were creditworthy. The defendants also cloaked each fake merchant with a virtual office address near a real merchant’s location, a phone number, a home phone number for the “owner,” a Web site pretending to sell products, a toll-free number consumers could call, and a real company’s tax number found on the Internet.”

The lesson here is to check your account often and question everything, especially those anything that has an unusual name. While recently traveling oversees, my husband questioned a charge that showed on our account several times as “Carriage”. It turned out to legitimately be the name of the bank where we had used an ATM, but even charges with “normal” names should warrant your investigation.

To give just a few examples of the FTC investigation here are some of the names that have been associated with scam charges: ACM, Eureka, Marx, Site Services, Advanced Global Tech, MFG, AEI, SYS INC, United Service.  For more information contact the FTC.

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