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7 signs of phony credit card offers

by Barbara Marquand

If you've taken a nasty financial tumble, be aware that you could become a target for credit card scam artists who thrive on kicking people when they're down.

Knowing that people who have suffered financial trouble are desperate for credit, these swindlers promise "gold cards" to milk victims for cash they can't afford to lose. How? They charge upfront application fees and then send plastic cards good only for buying overpriced merchandise from catalogs. Or they take your money, promising to get you credit, only to send you a list of credit card companies you could easily have gotten yourself.

So how do you tell if a credit card offer is bogus? Here are seven signs:

  1. Credit card approval guarantee: Legitimate credit card companies don't guarantee that you can be approved if you've had bad credit.
  2. No credit check required: Credit card companies must check potential customers' credit histories to decide whether to offer them credit, and determine rates and credit limits.
  3. Advance credit card application fee: Although many credit cards charge annual fees--which are limited to no more than 25 percent of the first year's credit limit--you should not have to pay a fee just to apply. In some cases, scammers have requested customers' bank account numbers, drained the accounts, and then disappeared.
  4. 900 telephone number: The New York State Department of Financial Services has reported that in some instances, phony credit card offers instructed customers to call 900 numbers, which resulted in hefty charges to their phone bills.
  5. Unsolicited credit card email offers: Shop for credit cards by going to legitimate credit card websites. Don't answer unsolicited junk e-mails, which could be from thieves trying to steal your personal financial information.
  6. Offers to get credit cards for you: You don't have to pay anyone to get a credit card for you, and it won't improve your chances of scoring one anyway. Always fill out applications yourself, and if you can't qualify for an unsecured credit card, consider getting a secured credit card, which is backed by money you deposit in a savings account.
  7. Promises of future credit card: The Maryland Attorney General reports that in some scams, customers were told they could build credit histories by buying merchandise from a catalog, which would then enable them to qualify for a real credit card. Wrong!

Don't let yourself be a victim. Ignore credit card offers that sound too good to be true and get financial counseling from organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling if you need help.

Published 05/31/12 (Modified 11/19/13)

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1 Responses to "7 signs of phony credit card offers"
  1. Wendy Smith August 05, 2012 at 3:33 am

    There is another sign of a suspiciously phony credit card offer. The good ol' fashion mail one, with the many-paged offer (you won't read all of them), which has a pretty high limit for you. Check to see what it looks like physically: If it's on stiff, offfice-type paper and looks like it's been run off a photocopier or has a desk-top inkjet look, if all of the above, I would reconcile it to the circular file (trash).


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