Word to the wise: Beware of fraudulent credit card “protection” offers

The thought of someone getting their hands on your credit cards and charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars, is alarming. There are companies out there that are trying to ease such fears by offering credit card loss protection programs. The Better Business Bureau, along with the Federal Trade Commission warns that some offers are not worth the money, so beware.

Credit card protection offers are popular among fraudulent promoters who are trying to exploit consumers’ uncertainty. In some cases, scare tactics and misleading information is used to sell protection that is not needed. Some scam artists may even claim to be connected with your credit card issuer and ask to “verify” your account number to make sure you are protected. Your real credit card issuer does not need your account number; it already has it.

The BBB advises consumers to avoid doing business with telemarketers who claim that:

You are liable for more than $50 in unauthorized charges on your credit card account.

You need credit card loss protection because hackers can access your credit card number and charge thousands of dollars to your account.

A computer bug could make it easy for thieves to place unauthorized charges on your credit card account.

They are from the “security department” of your credit card company and want to activate the protection feature on your credit card, but first they need to “verify” your account number to make sure you are protected.

The best defense against these types of scams is to educate yourself and know your rights as a consumer. Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50. If you report the loss before your credit cards are used, the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief uses your cards before you report them missing, the most you will owe for unauthorized charges is $50 per card. Also, if the loss involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use.

Most card issuers have voluntary policies to remove unauthorized charges completely if you report them as soon as you discover them.

If you are not sure what your issuer’s policy is, ask.

As a precaution for all unsolicited telephone calls, never give out personal information unless you have initiated the call and know the company with which you are dealing. Also, check out any company with the Better Business Bureau before you make your purchasing decision.

Although this advice may seem simple, thousands of local consumers are duped each year by professional scam artists who make it their profession to rip you off.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at (478) 742-7999, or by e-mailing