CVV2 Credit Card Scam: What You Should Know

Because credit card fraud is becoming such a hot issue for consumers, many merchants who accept credit card payments are beefing up their security. Some ask for your billing zip code to verify that your credit card is valid, while others ask for the CVV2 number-or security number-on the back of your card.

MasterCard, Visa, AmEx and Discover cards usually have a CVV2 number, which is usually two or three digits printed on the back of the card, near your signature. This code is unique to your card and is placed in the system with your credit card number, and is one of the safest ways to verify who you are and that you actually have the card. This way, even if a scam artist has stolen your account number, they can't necessarily use it for "card not present" transactions.

The CVV2 credit card scam began several months ago, and is increasing in frequency as more fraudulent users determine that this is the only way to effectively use stolen information. If they can input the CVV2 number online or over the phone, they have access to your entire available credit.

How the Scam Works

This credit card scam is quite ingenious, particularly for consumers who don't bother to verify callers when they answer the phone. The scam artist calls to inform the consumer that a charge on their credit card is suspected to be fraudulent. They'll ask if you purchased a $750 digital camera or a 2002 Ford Explorer-something that you probably didn't purchase.

When you exclaim that of course you didn't buy a $2,000 washing machine, they'll offer to return the money immediately if you can answer a few security questions. This is how an actual credit card company representative would handle the situation, so it sounds legitimate. They might ask you to verify a previous address or give your mother's maiden name. Even if they don't have that information, they'll agree with whatever you say.

The last question they'll ask is to verify the CVV2 number on the back of your credit card to verify that you have it in your possession. Without thinking, you whip out the card and read off the number, and the scam is successful. Then they thank you for your time, assure you that the fraudulent charge will be removed, and hang up the phone.

Why the Scam Works

The CVV2 credit card scam works because consumers simply don't pay enough attention. They assume that if someone calls claiming to be from the bank, it must be true. These people usually have professional voices and seem to know what they're talking about, and they'll thank you for using Washington Mutual or try to sell you the Privacy Protection for your account.

This scam is similar to the e-mails that have circulated from financial institutions and PayPal. Consumers click on the links to update their account information or change their passwords, only to fall victim to a scam in the process. The CVV2 credit card scam is incredibly dangerous, which means you need to know how to protect yourself as a consumer.

How to Avoid Being a Victim

If someone calls from your bank, ask for the number so you can call back and verify. In addition, you should call the normal 800 number to ask if the number given is actually one of your bank's official lines. If it isn't, you'll know that you were almost duped.

Whatever you do, never give out personal or identifying information over the telephone, such as your social security number or the CVV2 number. Legitimate banking officials won't ask for this information over the phone line unless you have called them specifically.

Want to protect your credit card information? Don't give out your CVV2 number!