No, it turns out that caller is not really interested in lowering your credit card rates - AZCentral

No, it turns out that caller is not really interested in lowering your credit card rates - AZCentral

No, it turns out that caller is not really interested in lowering your credit card rates - AZCentral

Posted: 24 Mar 2020 11:29 AM PDT


The scam call offering to lower my credit card interest rate came early in the day, before normal working hours. But after being assigned to work at home like millions of other employees worldwide during this time of COVID-19, what defines the normal work day is in flux.

Twenty minutes later, the scammer hung up, saying he was done wasting his time. But, not before laying out how the scheme worked and how often it was successful.

Granted, this was a scammer. He could have been fibbing even as he detailed the scheme, which he said is called the "LI scam" in industry-speak.

A representative from the fraud team at Visa said the scheme seemed familiar. Credit card companies have long battled such attempts to fish for cardholders' information, the representative said.

According to the scammer said, banks are the real targets of this scam. The gullible public are just conduits to get to those institutions' cash.

It's not clear if more people are picking up these calls with more people working at home, relying on their mobile phones and what landlines are left to make calls, rather than office lines. A different scammer who called me Thursday said he'd noticed more people answering calls and listening to his pitch over the past two weeks. But the man I spoke with on Friday said it was about the same.

Visa and MasterCard, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, have advice about scams on their websites.

The government tells customers that they likely have as much pull to lower their interest rate than any third-party. Visa and MasterCard say that customers should never give out their personal information or account data over the phone.

Credit card companies have long battled such attempts to fish for cardholders' information, said Lori Hodges, a vice president of the risk department at Visa.

She said this scheme seemed at a low-level of sophistication.

Over the past year, she said, Visa has seen a rise in highly sophisticated frauds. The scammer calls armed with some personal information, a name, address, or even a credit card number, and uses that to prod for more, Hodges said.

Databases with such information are sold on the so-called dark web, she said.

But, no matter the sophistication level, Hodges said credit card holders should keep a basic fact in mind: A bank will not ask for personal information over the phone. Presumably, since they issued the credit, banks already have that information. Any questions, she said, would be yes or no questions to validate that information.

The Friday call, like most of these scam calls, purported to come from a local area code. I answered and heard that familiar robotic voice that claimed to be from Visa and MasterCard card services.

It assured me, as all these calls do, that there was no problem, but that I had an offer to lower my interest rate and needed to act now to take advantage of it. It asked me to press one.

Here's where most right-thinking people, smelling a scam, hang up. But professional curiosity spurred me to forge ahead.

Last year, I was able to get a man in India to explain how the "Social Security scam" worked. 

That's the one that starts with the urgent-sounding message that your number has been used in a crime and that you must call back to remedy the situation.

The caller is told that their assets would be frozen for days or weeks. And that if they want to use their funds, they need to withdraw cash from their bank and use it to buy gift cards at Target or Wal-Mart. The scammer, I was told, stays on the phone with their victim until they make the purchase, ensuring they don't talk to anyone else who might jolt them back to reality.

This credit card interest scam is not as involved. Making it potentially more likely someone falls for it. And potentially more lucrative.

After I pressed one, a man started running through a script about how he could lower the interest rates on my credit cards.

I started asking him about his working conditions and whether his employer was taking precautions to make sure he and others didn't contract the new coronavirus. The man alternately said he was working from home, then in an office, then, flustered, handed me off to his supervisor.

And it would be that person who gave more information.

The supervisor – I didn't get the fake name he used – told me he was at an office in Kabul, Afghanistan. Again, there was no way to verify this. I asked him how the weather was there and he told me it was cold, which matched up with online forecasts.

After some parrying, the supervisor told me that he does not make any attempt to lower a customers' interest rates. What he does is try to max out customers' credit cards and keep the money.

The scammer draws out information from their potential victim. First the basics, the expiration date and full 16-digit card number. Along with the three digit security code on the back.

If that number proves to be valid when checked, the scammer said, they fish for more information.

They ask for a home address, email and mothers' maiden name. All the types of questions someone from a credit card company might ask to verify a potentially fraudulent purchase. I wasn't able to get the scammer to describe in detail how that information is used.

The supervisor said the victim's card is charged to its limit. The money goes to a fake merchant the scammers have set up. The merchant is changed frequently so the credit card companies don't track it.

The idea, the supervisor said, was that the victims would be able to reverse the charges on the card, leaving the bank on the hook.

"We're scamming banks, not customers," he said.

Of the thousands of robocalls made each day, only about 300 get to the call center, he said. Of those, he said, about three or four people each day become victims.

The successful scammers, who aren't paid hourly, get 30% of whatever the fraudulent take was, he said.

"It's not honest," he said. "It's fraud, total fraud." The supervisor said he didn't give a care about his victims, although he substituted a more colorful word.

The supervisor said turnover at the call center was fairly high. Someone learns quickly whether they have the chops to pull off the scam on a regular basis.

"It all depends on your training," he said. "It depends on your skills."

The supervisor said that speaking English with as little accent as possible was also a plus.

He said that he mastered English during his eight months on the job.

Though, he said he didn't know the meaning of the word "gullible." As when I asked him what made people in the United States so gullible.

"What does that mean?" he said. "Never heard that before. Teach me."

I reworded it. What made people fall for the scam?

"I cannot tell you exactly," he said. "Convincing skills. That's it."

Then, he signaled he was done.

"Have a wonderful day," he said. Then, he hung up.

Incidentally, he said the call center he was at was filled with 30 to 40 people. And, no, they weren't following social-distancing guidelines.

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How to choose a business credit card - CNBC

Posted: 24 Dec 2019 10:06 AM PST

If you're a small business owner looking to simplify expenses, opening a business credit card can provide numerous benefits. Many small business credit cards offer free employee cards, rewards and special financing that make them essential for entrepreneurs.

There are a variety of small business cards available — some offer cardholders a chance to earn cash back, points or miles on all your spending — which makes it hard to choose the best card. There's no one-size-fits-all card since every business is unique. But there are some steps you can take to ensure you choose the best credit cards for your needs.

Below, CNBC Select reviews how business credit cards work and the key features you should consider before choosing one.

How to choose a business credit card

  1. Understand how business credit cards work
  2. Review your business's expenditures
  3. Consider added benefits

1. Understand how business credit cards work

Before you apply for a business credit card, familiarize yourself with they work.

  • Personal liability: In most cases, you (as the business owner) are personally responsible for any charges made on your business card account, including employee purchases.
  • Less protections than personal credit cards: Business cards aren't protected under the laws of the CARD Act, making it even more important to always pay on time and in full. You may see a sudden increase in your APR without notice or a shortened grace period if you miss a payment.
  • Charge card vs. credit card: Just like personal credit cards, there are two types of business cards — charge cards and credit cards. With a charge card, there is no preset spending limit (though that doesn't mean unlimited spending) and as a result, you're required to pay the bill in full every month. American Express is known for its business charge cards, such as The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Meanwhile, a business credit card has a preset spending limit, but allows you to carry a balance month-to-month, with interest. These cards also offer intro 0% APR periods, which aren't an option with business charge cards.
  • Employee cards: A great benefit of small business credit cards is the ability to open employee cards and track their spending. Many business cards offer free employee cards that help streamline expenses, without the need to reimburse employee spending on personal cards.

2. Review your business's expenditures

Once you understand how business credit cards work, evaluate your spending habits. You can review your books from the past year to find identify the categories where you spend the most money, such as travel, advertising or dining. From there, you can begin searching for a business card that will provide the most benefit for those purchases.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Does my business require me or my employees to travel frequently? If yes, it's a good idea to choose a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees and gives you the opportunity to earn travel rewards. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on (Read our review of the Amex Business Platinum Card.)
  • Do I entertain clients at restaurants? Consider a card that rewards dining purchases, such as the American Express® Business Gold Card, which offers 4X Membership Rewards® points on the two select categories where your business spent the most each month (such as spending at U.S. restaurants).
  • Does my business require driving? Some cards offer higher rewards for gas purchases that may help offset the cost of fueling vehicles when your redeem cash back as a statement credit. The Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card offers 3% cash back on your choice of one of six categories (gas stations is the default), 2% cash back on dining (for the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year, then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Do I spend on typical business purchases, such as shipping and phone services? If you find yourself spending in common business categories, consider cards that reward those purchases. The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in select categories each account anniversary year (travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines) and 1X point per $1 on all other purchases. Read our Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review.
  • Is it impossible to categorize my business spending? If your business is new or if you spend across a variety of categories, consider a simple flat-rate cashback card. These cards are also good for a business that has changing needs. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers 2% cash back on every purchase in every category.

Learn more: How to check your business credit score for free

3. Consider added benefits

Beyond streamlining expenses and earning rewards, business credit cards can provide special financing offers, account management tools, extended warranties and more.

Here are some additional benefits to consider when comparing cards:

  • Special financing offers: Many business cards offer intro 0% APR periods on new purchases that can be as long as 15 months. During the intro period, you can carry a balance without incurring interest charges. This can be a great asset for costly purchases, such as laptops, printers or office furniture.
  • Purchase protection and insurance. Business cards may offer a suite of purchase protections, such as extended warranty coverage, and insurances, such as cell phone protection, travel insurance and auto rental damage collision insurance.
  • Luxury perks: Premium business cards may come with hefty annual fees over $400, but they often provide perks that offset the fee. Look out for annual airline fee credits, lounge access and elite status at airlines or hotels.
  • Account management tools. Business cards often offer various perks that make it easy to track spending. Cards may come with quarterly and year-end summaries, itemized receipts and the ability to export transactions to Excel or other accounting software.

Check out CNBC Select's best small business credit cards and how to apply for a business card.

Information about the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card and Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.


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