Understanding your plastic – credit or debit – if you’re caught in a scam

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Ryan Scott, of Meridian, said he’s never been to illicit or illegal websites, but when the FBI froze his computer, and asked that he pay $300 in fines, he was shocked.

“I’m not certain, what I’ve done?” he asks. “But, why would I have to use only my ‘debit card’ to pay this fine.”

Scott stumbled into the Reveton virus that has been around about a year. It freezes up your computer access until you pay a fee to the malware developers. FBI warns, don’t fall for the scam. Scott clicked through the link as was asked to using only a debit card.

“When I read that, I knew there was something wrong,” he says. And, he called Better Business Bureau.

Debit cards and credit cards are accepted at the same places. Debit cards generally carry a major credit card symbol, and can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. They both offer convenience. The fundamental difference between a debit card and a credit card account is where the cards pull the money. A debit card takes it from your banking account and a credit card charges it to your line of credit.

Debit cards act like a credit card but work in a different way. Debit cards draw money directly from your checking account when you make the purchase. They do this by placing a hold on the amount of the purchase. Then the merchant sends in the transaction to the bank and it is transferred to the merchants account. It can take a few days for this to happen, and the hold may drop off before the transaction goes through. For this reason it is important to keep a running balance of your checking account to make sure you do not accidentally overdraw your account. It is possible to do that with a debit card.

A credit card is a card that allows you to borrow money in small amounts at local merchants. You use the card to make your basic transactions. The credit card company then charges you interest on your purchases, though there is generally a 30-day grace period  before interest is charged if you do not carry your balance over from month to month.

If you find any unauthorized transactions

Let your financial institution know. Notify your financial institution’s branch or telephone banking call center immediately and make sure you are able to tell the bank the amount and date of the fraudulent transaction. The bank may be able to explain the transaction and, if it is fraudulent, will be able to tell you what to do next. Keep all the documents that give evidence of the fraud. Record the name of the person you spoke to at the bank, as well as the date and time you called.

Report the loss to credit-reporting agencies. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian are the key credit bureaus who can flag, or place an alert on an account for fraudulent activity, which then requires that they contact the card holder before any new lines of credit are opened. Consumers can also ask to have an account frozen, which means their credit history can’t be reviewed by lenders and prevents new lines of credit from being opened. But, keep in mind, it may take several days to unfreeze accounts.

Report it to police. Contact your local police’s non-emergency number and record the police report number. You should also keep a log of transactions to help you figure out where the fraud could have occurred.


1 Comment

Filed under News You Can Trust

One response to “Understanding your plastic – credit or debit – if you’re caught in a scam

  1. Mark Burrows

    Here would be red flag number one. FBI like any law enforcement does not have the legal right to remotely lock up or freeze your computer. Neither can they fine you without documentation where to go to dispute your case and have your day in court. Third, if they suspect you of anything, they must enter your residence with a warrant unless they have reason to believe that human life is in danger. By the way, they can not use this as an excuse to enter a residence then start to snoop around, they would be responsible for damages and must return with a proper warrant. Never mind what you see in the movies when they bust into a place with full force, that warrant must be in their possession. Unlawful entry applies to them as it does to a burglar.
    Viruses are tricky things. You just can’t believe or accept things that pop up out of the blue that is out of the norm of the usual routine of your online habits. You must be prepared to stop, and seek help outside the environment of your computer.
    Always keep on hand a list of phone numbers of friends or services that are more knowledgeable about such situations and problems and call them. There are no stupid questions. Saying nothing, doing nothing or following such requests are stupid. Most people have a good friend close by who is computer savvy and likely if you call them, they will probably tell you to touch nothing until they get there. If they do not know how to solve a riddle, they will know how to source the answer and can return home and do so on their computer.
    BBB is a warning system, but it is not a solution, but you must understand, it is not their job to solve the problem just to inform you that the problem exists and gives you suggestions how to avoid it. Which is more than most services do.
    Owning a computer requires you to be stalwart in your efforts to understand and protect yourself because you choose to be online. Fact is, 99% of all computer problems are generated from the internet. .5% is software failure, .4% is is hardware failure, and .1% is accidental file deletion. Okay, I confess, these are my personal estimates, and it is me being a bit satirical to make light of the situation. Yet, it is true that most problems do generate from the internet and if we do not learn to be wary, we will risk not only our funds, our personal information, identity, but we also put our family and friends at risk because when your computer has been attacked or hacked, one of the first things they grab is your contact lists so they have a bevy of more targets to prey upon. Some scams out there will send emails using your email ID to your contact list telling them to click a link about a great product they found. So, your name, they trust you, why shouldn’t they. They click on the link. BANG! They are now a victim.

    Mark Burrows.

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