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Consumer Alert: Credit card scam callers asking for security code

Three-, four-digit codes can unlock private information

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ORLANDO, Fla. – After all the credit card hacks at major stores, scammers could have a lot of information about you, from your card number to your name and address.

[WEB EXTRA:  More info on Security Code Scam]

And now they're trying to fill in the gaps looking for the one thing they don't have -- the security code on the back of your card.

If your credit card company notices you've made big purchases that are out of the norm, you may get a call like this.

"You answer the phone. They come on very courteous, ‘Good afternoon, I hope you're not busy,'" explained Frances McCullough, a frequent credit card user.

"They were saying it was like a fraud protection program. And they ask you, 'Have you had any excessive activity on your credit card?'" shopper Pablo Flores explained.

Yes, everything so far sounds legit, and the callers even say they'll open a fraud investigation and give you a reference number. 

But here's the scam: they ask for your security code.

They're talking about the three-digit code on the back of a Visa card or the four-digit code on the front of an American Express card.

The scammers are banking on the fact that you won't be alarmed because they haven't asked for your full card number.  But, in fact, the code is the only thing they need.

Breaches at major retailers have landed a lot of people's card numbers on the black market, and what they already know about you makes them sound even more legit. 

"They told me even my address and where I lived at," Flores said.

Fortunately, both Flores and McCullough followed their gut feeling.

"They tried to talk and talk, but I was ahead of them so I just hung up," McCollugh said.

And that's what you need to do.

Hang up, and then call the customer care number on the back of your card. 

For one, you can double-check to make sure there are really no unauthorized charges, and you can also warn your card company to keep a close watch on your account.