Don’t help crooks crack your card

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The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about a new scam in town. It’s called card-cracking and it involves turning over your bank account information, PIN number or online banking credentials to crooks.

How does it work?

Fraudsters advertise a contest via social media or “maybe a Web page that claims to have a celebrity affiliation is offering a gift card giveaway,” Lesley Fair, an attorney with the FTC, writes in a new blog post. “The variations are endless.”

But the end game is always the same. At some point, the crook will ask for the aforementioned bank credentials. Once the number is in hand, they’ll deposit multiple checks in the account then withdraw the funds from ATMs before the bank has a chance to flag them as fake.

Another way to cheat

Sometimes crooks will actively promote card-cracking as a way to pay your bills. They’ll try to rope in recruits, often students, via a text, video or social media post, promising fast cash. Recruits readily give over their PIN in an exchange for a small cut of the profits.

“The account holder may try to rationalize it as just a shady way to game the system, but c’mon,” Fair writes. “No legitimate business deposits checks that way. What’s really going on is fraud and account holders who cooperate with card-crackers have stepped in the middle of it.”

Should I be worried?

If you’re participating willingly in a card-cracking scam, absolutely. The FTC is cracking down on card-cracking and people who let the fraudsters use their accounts could be liable for any losses incurred as a result of the crack.

People who are unwittingly roped into a card-cracking scam also have cause for concern since crooks often will siphon the legitimate funds (i.e., your savings) out of the account.

How can I protect myself?

Remember, first and foremost, that any offer that sounds too good to be true more than likely is. And be wary of anyone who asks for your financial information.

“No aboveboard contest, social media promotion, or job opportunity requires that people hand over their bank cards, PIN numbers, or online banking credentials,” Fair writes.

If you turned your info over to a suspicious party, monitor your bank accounts closely or, better yet, call your bank and have your account number changed or your debit card replaced.

Remember, as a general best practice, you can always keep an eye on your credit report to make sure larger identity theft isn’t occurring. Signs include incorrect addresses and unfamiliar trade lines (loans you don’t remember opening). Check yours for free at myBankrate.

Have you encountered a card-cracker? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter: @JeanineSko.