Not many people can count the days when they were young adults, just starting out in the world, as some of the most financially stable years of their lives. It might be fun to reminisce about the early years of living paycheck to paycheck and eating rice and beans every night for dinner, but truthfully, it’s not much fun to live like that.

And that’s what criminals are counting on.

In a new scheme called “card cracking,” young consumers are the primary victims of choice. Don’t let the word “cracking” mislead you; when we see a popular film with a safe cracker deftly using talents that the rest of us don’t possess to open a vault, it makes for fun suspense. But in the case of card cracking, it takes no skill whatsoever, only a slick sales pitch that tricks the victims into handing over their information.

There are a lot of different ways that card cracking can be presented to the victim. One particularly sad scenario involves promising young college students that they’re eligible for unclaimed scholarship money. In the more common, shadier version of the crime, though, the victim is actually promised “easy money” for his cooperation in “sticking it” to the bank for a small cut of the money; after all, banks have tons of money, right? Who cares if you make off with a few hundred dollars? However card cracking is explained, there’s only one unifying truth to it: the victim willingly hands over his bank account number and PIN number.

In card cracking, the thieves reach out to the victim through sites like Facebook and Instagram and offer a cut of the money. All they need is the victim’s account and PIN number. The story is they’ll deposit a counterfeit check into the victim’s account then withdraw most of it, leaving the victim’s portion as his payout. See the problem with this? Instead of doing any such thing (especially since counterfeiting a check is a very serious crime), the thieves simply take all the money out of your account once they have your info. If the victim tries to report it to the bank, he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do about how he was involved in the first place.

As if having your bank account emptied wasn’t scary enough—especially for a young college student, a recent graduate just starting out, or even a new member of the military, all demographics who’ve been victims of card cracking—there have even been reports of physical interactions involving this crime. One story explained about a young woman who was taken to her own ATM to withdraw the money as part of the organized scheme, only the thieves left her stranded and took her card and PIN number with them. She’s lucky they only took her card information and left her physically unharmed.

With the crime growing so fast, it’s important to keep watch against it and inform others on how to avoid it. There is no legitimate reason anyone would ever need your PIN number; that’s why it’s called a “personal” identification number. Moreover, there’s no such thing as free money or get rich quick schemes. If you’re offered the option to make some “fast” cash or to earn big bucks for doing nothing, there’s got to be a catch. In the case of card cracking, the catch is you’re going to lose everything.

 

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