Better Business Bureau: Beware prepaid credit cards, bogus platinum cards

By Alan Bligh
Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Oct. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.

People who don't qualify for or want a bank account are vulnerable to scams and poor business practices from a variety of sources. A study from The Pew Charitable Trusts suggests that consumers should be wary of prepaid credit cards.

The Pew Center warns these cards come with high fees and other risks. The study found that prepaid cards come with seven to 15 different fees. Also, the study pointed out that overdraft protection offered by many lenders was counterproductive. In addition, there are significant risks to purchasing a prepaid card. For example the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) does not always cover money placed on prepaid credit cards.

Smartphone info vulnerable

More and more smartphone owners are using their phones to make mobile payments. By storing credit or debit information on their phone, consumers can pay for goods and services, transfer money and receive receipts and confirmations from businesses. But, this could leave your personal information vulnerable and enticing to criminals. To protect your information, the BBB recommends:

Password protect your phone. Most smartphones allow you to lock your phone with a password or screen pattern.

Consider disabling auto-populate features. Some phones have the option to automatically store your username and password for each application. Keep the feature off so you don't make accidental purchases.

Avoid making transactions over public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks may not be secure, and hackers could steal your personal information.

Use a different password for each application. This adds more protection should someone steal your smartphone and attempt to access your mobile payment applications.

All that glitters is not gold

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled charges with a company behind a bogus "platinum" credit card scheme. According to the complaint, consumers were offered a payday loan-like "platinum" credit card that supposedly could be used anywhere that accepts Visa, MasterCard or American Express. For an upfront $99 and a monthly $19 fee, consumers were promised a $9,500 credit line. According to the FTC, the "platinum" credit card could only be used at the company's online store for off-brand, over-priced items. This is a rather common scam but the use of the term "platinum" really caught the FTC's attention.

This 'update' is a virus

Twitter users, don't fall for this! You receive a Twitter direct message that seems to be alerting you to a video of yourself posted on Facebook. Senders try to grab your attention by implying that the video is embarrassing. The message contains a link that appears to go to a address. But users who click on it are greeted with what appears to be a video player and a warning message that "An update to YouTube player is needed." The message says it will install an update to Flash Player 10.1, but the file that downloads isn't a new version of Flash. It's a virus.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at



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