Over-limit card scam fools cardholder

To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for CreditCards.com, and also wrote for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

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Dear To Her Credit,
I have a Discover account. I made my last payment on time. My next payment is due two weeks from now.

Discover called me last night and told me that after they added the interest to my balance, it brought the balance to $16 over my limit of $1,260. I was so confused as to why I was getting this call, since it was right in the middle of my payment cycle. I told them that I would take care of it on my next payment, but she said if I didn't schedule a payment through them for Dec. 4, they would report me to the credit bureau and it would affect my score.

I spoke to a supervisor and authorized an immediate payment of $16 so they would not put this on my credit. The overage was due to their interest, I was not late on any payments and it was not time for my next payment. Can they do this?  -- Vicky


Dear Vicky,
That wasn't Discover. You've been scammed.

Something about your story didn't sound right to me. Most of us have missed a payment or gone over the limit at some time, and we don't receive calls from the credit card company unless the account is way past due. Even if a credit card holder becomes delinquent and the bank makes a call, it doesn't seem likely that, in this day of identity theft and security breaches, they would expect you to give bank account information over the phone.

Just to be sure, I contacted Jenna DiMaria, project manager at Discover. She says, "At no time would we force card members to pay money over the phone or use strong language. At Discover, customers are our top priority and should they have questions or concerns about their account, they can immediately connect with a live, U.S.-based customer experience representative to discuss their account at any time."

The bad news for you at this point is that you apparently gave your bank information to a scam operation. Plus, the fraudsters also seem to be aware of your credit card limit. They not only have your $16 and some or all of your card information, but they know your bank information, as well. If they had you "confirm" your Discover card account number on the phone, now they have that, too.

The first thing you should do is notify your bank that a fraudulent operation has your bank information. You can do this in person or by phone. The bank will monitor your account for unusual activity. They may also close your account and open a new one.

If you gave your Discover card number to the person who called you, you should also call the phone number on your Discover card or statement as soon as possible and tell them what happened. Discover may change your account number if it has been compromised.

To avoid being scammed in the future, identity theft expert and McAfee consultant Robert Siciliano says, "Rule No. 1, no matter what, no matter the reason or how convincing the person is, never respond to any incoming communications with your personal data. The smartest, most secure response is to hang up, call the number on the back of your card and tell a card company rep about the call you received and go from there. This puts the consumer in control."

See related: 7 high-tech holiday scams

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Updated: 10-16-2018