The three- or four-digit security codes printed on credit and debit cards are meant to protect you from criminals who want to charge purchases to your account. But criminals—who already have their hands on millions of stolen card account numbers—are tricking card holders into revealing the codes as well.

The scam works like this: You receive a phone call from someone who claims to work in your card issuer’s fraud-prevention department. The caller reads your credit card account number to you and says that suspicious transactions have been identified on the account, then asks you to confirm whether you made a particular purchase. When you say you did not, the caller tells you not to worry because a new account number will be issued and you won’t be responsible for any fraudulent charges. But first you have to provide the security code to prove that the card still is in your possession. If it is not, you might be responsible for some of the fraudulent charges, the caller claims.

Even savvy consumers fall for this scam because the caller already knows the card account number, making it easier to convince you that it is the card issuer calling.

What to do: If a caller claims to be from your card issuer’s fraud-prevention department, ask for the caller’s name and/or employee ID, hang up, then call the 800-number on the back of your card and ask to speak to the fraud-prevention department or that particular employee. If the call was not from the card issuer, explain that your account number likely has been stolen. The issuer will give you a new card with a new number.

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