Although the advent of chip-and-battery technology makes it difficult for someone to use a stolen credit card to directly make fraudulent transactions, hackers tend to be relentlessly creative when it comes to carrying out theft. The fact is, there are so many ways thieves can get your credit card account number, which they can easily use to make purchases or sabotage other forms using your name.
A stolen credit card or account number can also be one of the first signs of identity theft, so be aware of credit card fraud and take steps to minimize damage if you find out.
5 ways credit card numbers can be stolen
With your physical credit card no longer the usual target, you may be wondering how hackers and thieves can get your credit card number, to get started. There are many ways this can happen, including the following:
1. Phishing emails
Phishing emails may look official, but these phishing messages were created for nefarious purposes. Most phishing emails try to get you to click on a button or link that takes you to a familiar phishing website to enter your account information.
Another common scam is to give an urgent (and completely bogus) reason that you need to call a company, such as your credit card company or Social Security office. They will list a fraudulent phone number and when you call, ask for your personal information and even card details to “confirm your identity”.
Downloading or opening the wrong file from an email or website can add spyware to your computer, which is located there for the purpose of exporting your card details and other information that hackers can use to steal your money or identity. For example, keylogging writing software, like skimmers, can compromise your credit card when it’s in your wallet. But this type of spyware can appear on your computer or device if you accidentally click on the link attached to the phishing email. Be careful what you download and prevent spyware by buying your own antivirus software.
3. Public WiFi Network
Public internet networks, like those you find in hotels and airports, can easily put you at risk if you enter your account information or open sensitive documents and someone is monitoring the network. Make sure to install a VPN on your computer if you need to use the Internet away from home quite often.
4. Big data breach
Large organizations, including banks and retail businesses, may be vulnerable to targeted data breaches that put your credit card information and other personal details at risk. Some of the biggest data breaches of the past decade, including the Capital One data breach in 2019, resulted in tens of millions of consumers having their information stolen.
5. Classic ways: skim through your trash cans and ATMs
Finally, don’t forget that some thieves still try to steal your credit card data in the classic way. Your trash can is a treasure trove when it comes to finding credit card numbers and accounts or figuring out which companies you use for your savings or investment account.
Although it is less common today, ATM skimming still occurs. This type of fraud occurs when ATMs and other payment terminals are fitted with a recording device that collects your card information when you give or swipe the card.
How to check if your credit information has been stolen
Check your credit report for changes: You can make sure certain fraudulent activities don’t happen by tracking your credit report. You can regularly check your credit reports every week for free from all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — using the YearCreditReport.com website. This is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers can access their free credit reports weekly until April 20, 2022.
Fraudulent activity on your credit report can affect your credit score, so it’s important to dispute the information as soon as you discover any inaccurate information.
Use identity and credit theft monitoring services: If you suspect unusual activity on your credit account, identity and credit theft monitoring services will review your credit report and help you find the cause of any misconduct. You can access the free or paid service offered through your bank, one of the three credit bureaus, or companies like LifeLock, Identity Guard, and IdentityForce.
Keep track of your credit card statements: You can update your credit account by keeping track of your credit card statements regularly. That way, you can track your transactions more closely to make sure they match your actual spending history. If you happen to discover any unusual activity, report it immediately to your credit card issuer.
What to do if your credit card number is stolen
If your credit card number is stolen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will outline the steps you should take immediately:
Report the loss of your credit card or card number to your issuer immediately. You can usually do this by using a free phone number or a 24-hour emergency number.
Track messages or emails including your account number, the date and time the card was found to be lost, and the time you reported the loss.
Double-check your credit card statement for purchases you didn’t make and report any fraudulent transactions immediately.
Carefully monitor your credit reports to make sure no one has more of your information and that the theft of your card does not lead to other cases of identity theft.
You can check your credit reports for free each week from all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — using the YearCreditReport.com website.
Am I responsible for fraudulent credit card purchases?
The good news about credit card theft is that most credit cards don’t have the ability to protect liability for fraud, meaning you don’t get caught up in a penny in fraudulent purchases. However, the highest amount you can incur is $50, thanks to the protections contained in the Fair Credit Payments Act (FCBA).
This is a big difference from your potential liability for fraudulent purchases made with a debit card, which can include all the money in your bank account if the thief can use your debit account number to drain that money and you don’t notice the behavior. fraud within 60 days of the date your bank statement is sent to you.
How to protect your credit card information
When it comes to protecting your credit card information and identity, there are plenty of steps you can take right away. Most of them are also easy to do, including the following:
Only use secure websites.
According to the FBI, it’s important to avoid entering your credit card number and personal information on insecure websites. “Sometimes, a small symbol of the lock appears to symbolize a higher level of security for data transfer,” according to the office’s website. “This logo is not a guarantee of a secure website but provides some guarantees.”
Don’t give your account number over the phone.
The FTC warns that you should proceed with caution with anyone who wants your credit card number over the phone. This is especially true if they call you to start trading.
Check your credit card statements regularly
The best way to protect from credit card fraud is to keep a close eye on your accounts. Check your credit card statement at least once a month to make sure that each charge on the credit card is actually yours. If you detect suspicious charges or purchases on your account, notify your credit card issuer immediately.
Track your card while trading in person
If you’re using a credit card in a restaurant or a retail store, try to avoid instances where your card handler leaves you and takes the card out of your sight. If they can bring your card into another area away from you, they may have the opportunity to record your card number, expiration date, and security code. Also, always keep your wallet in a safe place. If you’re at the gym or taking a lunch break at work away from your desk, don’t leave your wallet in an unsafe and conspicuous place.
Delete your credit card information from e-commerce sites
To avoid the possibility of falling victim to a data breach, the simplest thing you can do is delete your credit card information from any unnecessary websites or retailers. For example, consumers save their credit card information to an Amazon or Lyft account for easier payments, however, you’re more vulnerable to hacking when you leave your account number on these sites.
The bottom line
Credit cards are always vulnerable to fraud, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim. It’s also fun to know that, no matter how much the fraudster charges on your credit card, you can only be liable for a maximum amount of $50, and it’s likely that your credit card issuer won’t ask you to refund any fees.
Either way, make sure you keep your credit card number and information as secure as possible. Your financial losses due to credit card fraud may be limited, but you will still face all its troubles and stresses.