The following is a true story.
QuickMedical CEO Scott Hanna was awakened early one morning in his hotel room by a mysterious voice on the phone.
"Mr. Smith," the voice said, "this is the manager. We have a small problem. The clerk who took your card made an error. They're new on the job, so I'm very sorry. I'll need you to give me your card number, again."
Scott sensed something was wrong with the phone call. What did he do?
Mr. Hanna wasn't Mr. Smith, which was the first red flag from this early morning phone call. But Mr. Smith had paid for the room, so there was a possibility the phone caller was legitimate, but why would the front desk call so early, when Scott had been checked in the entire night before?
Groggily Scott said, "If there's a problem, I'll come down right now to the front desk to take care of it."
The phone went dead.
Scott returned the call.
"Was the doctor able to get in touch with Mr. Smith?" asked the concerned clerk. At this point Scott fit all the pieces together. The early morning phone caller had gotten through to his room by pretending to be the doctor of a patient at the hotel with the common last name Smith. Once the scammer was connected to "Mr. Smith" (any Mr. or Ms. Smith would work) they would use the story about the credit card problem to quickly grab the number. Early in the morning with an elderly or just groggy person before their coffee the scam might work. Once your credit card number is compromised, if you are on vacation and it's used in the same city you're traveling in, it's very hard for the credit card company to detect any abnormality. Meanwhile, you are unaware the card is even compromised in the first place. A smart scammer can hold onto the card for months, if they aren't greedy. This can lead to an even worse problem than bogus purchases-- identity theft.
Luckily for Scott, the scammer slipped up. His word choice was too strong; the way he blamed the "new clerk" didn't seem like the kind of customer service he expected from the hotel. He wanted to fix the credit card error too quickly. Scott acted properly in the situation. NEVER give your credit card number to someone who calls you on the phone. Even if they claim to be verifying a purchase, check the source and place the call yourself to the business. When in doubt about something, ask for a supervisor. A hotel front desk will never call you and ask for a credit card number. If there is an error they will ask you to come back downstairs and swipe the physical card, again.
Summertime is prime time for scammers, online, on the phone, and even out in the street. Trust your instincts and stay educated. Check in with your local BBB for news on scams and schemes. Snopes.com is another great reference for online mischief. And here at the QuickMedical blog, we'll keep you posted on happenings like this when we can.
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