No, the title above is not a misprint.  The latest identity theft scam to be launched against the American consumer doesn’t require use of a credit card skimmer or theft of an actual debit or credit card.  It involves an unsolicited call from someone purporting to be with the fraud or security department of the consumer’s credit card issuer.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the thief will have already obtained your name, home address, phone number, credit card number and the card’s expiration date.  The only piece of information remaining for the thief to acquire is the three- or four-digit security code on the back of your credit card.

Here’s how the scammer obtains your security code:  you receive a call asking if you’ve recently made a large transaction using your credit card.  Because the transaction never really happened, the details likely won’t match any purchase you’ve initiated lately, so the caller will say that an investigation will have to be launched.  To gain your confidence the caller might then recite to you the information which had already been obtained and even give you a fake investigation case number.  The caller could mention the recent breaches of personal information at major retailers (which, ironically, might be how the caller got your information).  Finally, you will be asked to give your security code from the back of the credit card to confirm that you are in possession of the actual card.   If you divulge this information then you can expect to have a rash of fraudulent charges appear on your next credit card statement.

How can you protect yourself from this type of activity?  If you get an unsolicited telephone call like this, do not give the caller any personal information unless you can confirm that the call is legitimate.  It’s best to call the toll-free customer service telephone number on your credit card, speak to the issuer’s security or fraud department and ask whether the supposedly unauthorized charges were made.  If you’ve been a victim of this scam you can also call 1-877-FTC-HELP or go to the website at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.