Better Business Bureau: Don't fall for fake FBI fines online

October 10, 2013 

Ryan Scott, of Meridian, said he's never been to illicit websites, so when the FBI froze his computer and asked that he pay $300 in fines, he was shocked.

"I'm not certain, what've I done?" he asks. "Why would I have to use only my 'debit card' to pay this fine?"

Scott stumbled into the Reveton virus that has been around about a year. It freezes up computer access until you pay a fee to the malware developers. Don't fall for the scam, the FBI warns. Scott clicked through the link and was asked to use only a debit card.

"When I read that, I knew there was something wrong," he says. So, he called the Better Business Bureau.

Debit cards and credit cards are accepted similarly at most places and both generally carry a major credit card symbol. Both are used for convenience. The fundamental difference between a debit card and a credit card account is where the cards pull the money. A debit card takes it from your banking account and a credit card charges it to your line of credit.

Debit cards draw money directly from your checking account when you make the purchase by placing a hold on the purchase amount. Then, the merchant sends in the transaction to the bank and it is transferred to the merchants account. It can take a few days for this transaction to go through.

A credit card is a card that allows you to borrow money in small amounts at local merchants. You use the card to make your basic transactions. The credit card company then charges you interest on your purchases, though there is generally a 30-day grace period before interest is charged if you do not carry your balance over from month to month.

Because it's instantaneous, the cancellation can be instantaneous as well. Scammers are asking for debit cards on two points: access to your account and delay in transaction processing. Once a scammer has your account number, he or she can begin submitting sales until the account is empty. It's instant money, not credit.

By watching your account, you can spot fraudulent charges. If you find a problem, notify your financial institution's branch or telephone banking call center immediately and make sure you are able to tell the bank the amount and date of the fraudulent transaction. The bank may be able to explain the transaction and, if it is fraudulent, will be able to tell you what to do next.

Report the loss to credit-reporting agencies like TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. They are the key credit bureaus that can flag or place an alert on an account for fraudulent activity, which then requires that they contact the cardholder before any new lines of credit are opened.

Report it to police. Contact your local police station's non-emergency number and record the police report number. You should also keep a log of transactions to help you figure out where the fraud could have occurred.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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