Press releases from the Craig Police Department detailing new telephone and Internet scams have nearly become as commonplace as announcements about other police activity and high-profile arrests.
The Department issued its latest such release Tuesday. It warns citizens of a telephone scam that has robbed credit card holders by preying on their fears about security.
Crooks set their victims at ease by posing as fraud investigators. They obtain account information and then charge the victim's credit card account. The victim is left with the impression that the "investigator" will be clearing up an unauthorized charge.
"It's actually such a well-thought-out scam. People may be victims and not even know it," Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.
Vanatta said he's not aware of any local victims, but issued the press release to educate citizens about frauds being reported elsewhere in the state.
The subject line of the e-mail that alerted Vanatta to the scam reads: "These guys are good."
A sophisticated, professional-sounding caller masquerades as a fraud investigation officer employed by the victim's credit card company.
The caller claims to be investigating unusual purchase patterns on the victim's account and offers to issue a credit for $497.99 to clear up unauthorized charges.
The con artist says he first needs to verify that the customer is in possession of the card. As part of the verification, the victim is asked to disclose three digits in the security code on the back of the card.
What the scam wants is the three-digit number, according to Craig police.
Numerous assurances accompany the con artist's story, including a phony badge number, authoritative remarks about the nuances of credit card fraud and a promise that "I will be starting a fraud investigation."
Soon after the call, the phony investigator uses the security code to charge $497.99 to the card. When the victim sees the charge on the next statement, he or she will remember the call and feel assured that a credit has been issued and should be reflected on subsequent statements, Vanatta said.
"By the time you get your next statement, you think the credit
is coming and it's harder to
actually file a fraud report," the
In the meantime, the perpetrator may have charged the card as often as every few days -- always keeping the amount below $500 to avoid triggering a "flag" in the credit card company's computer system.
No Craig residents have reported the scam, but that doesn't mean there are no local victims, Vanatta said. The fraud may not have been reported because the victim assumes the credit card company already is working the case.
Citizens who find out they have been victimized should call Sgt. Bill Leonard at 824-2360.
Police remind citizens not to give out personal information without verification. If a "fraud investigator" reaches you at home, decline to speak with them, and contact your credit card company by calling the 800 number on the back of your card.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org