PLATTSBURGH — Guests at a local hotel fell victim to a phone scam earlier this month.
A person staying at the hostelry, which was not named by State Police, called authorities after noticing fraudulent charges on a credit card.
Trooper Christopher Guynup responded to the March 9 call, and while talking to the victim and hotel staff, he found several other guests had discovered their cards had also been used to make unauthorized purchases.
“Investigation revealed that, on March 8 and 9, someone made a series of calls to the hotel front desk and to each room in the hotel in an attempt to gather information regarding the names of the hotel employees and the hotel guests,” a State Police press release said.
Then, police said, the scammer called guest rooms directly, pretending to be a front-desk employee.
Calling the guests by name, he would tell them the hotel’s computer system was down and the credit-card information had been lost.
The scammer asked the guests to confirm the type of credit card they used to check in.
“Several victims told police that the caller had known the type of credit card they had used to pay for the room, as well as the first digit of the credit-card number,” police said.
And some guests had trustingly given the complete number.
Police said they don’t yet know how the scammer had known what kind of cards had been used, but they say the person used common account-numbering practices employed by all major credit-card companies to figure out the first digit of the victims’ cards.
In plain English, said Kevin Rock, manager of Comfort Inn & Suites in Plattsburgh, Visa cards all start with a 4 and Master Card uses a 5.
And because those are the kind of credit cards used most, it follows that a guess by a scammer is often going to be correct.