Card cracking is a scam that can leave you with thousands of dollars of debt, a ruined credit score and even criminal charges. But what is it?
Card cracking 101
Card cracking is a type of account fraud. The scammer asks you for your checking account information or debit card and PIN. Then, the scammer deposits fake checks or counterfeit bills and immediately withdraws the money, giving some of the cash to you.
How does this work? Card cracking takes advantage of the check clearing process, which can take a few days. For example, your friend Bob writes you a check; after you deposit the check to your credit union account, it’s sent to Bob’s credit union. Once Bob’s credit union verifies the money is in Bob’s account, it sends the money to your credit union, “clearing” the check.
But what happens if Bob doesn’t have money in his account or he has fake checks? Bob’s credit union won’t send the money and the value of the check you deposited will be taken out of your account. This process can take time and scammers withdraw funds from the account before the fake check is discovered.
What happens next is devastating. Both financial institutions realize the check isn’t backed by real money, so the value of the check is removed from your account. However, the scammer has already withdrawn the amount in cash, so the money isn’t there to remove.
Who are the targets of card cracking?
When money is tight, people may look for ways to earn cash fast. Scammers often target college students, young adults and recently enlisted members of the military. But card cracking is illegal, and it won’t put you in a better financial position. At the very least, you’ll have to pay back the money from the fake check.
Protect yourself from card cracking
Most card cracking schemes are found online through sites such as Twitter, Instagram and even Craigslist. Sometimes, scammers will post asking if their followers have certain accounts. You might think they are looking for recommendations, but scammers only want to take advantage of you. In other cases, someone might contact you saying you’ve won a contest or scholarship and ask for your account information.
Never provide your account information to anyone. Contests and scholarships don’t need this and neither do your friends. If someone wants to deposit a check in your account or use your debit card as a favor, just say no. Another way to spot a scam is to look for misspellings and grammatical errors. Legitimate businesses, contests and scholarships shouldn’t make those mistakes.
Your account information is the key to your money and needs to remain safe. The Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) has a lot of great information about different types of scams, including fake checks and card cracking. Once you know what to look for, you’ll know how to tell when something is a scam.