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How are credit card numbers stolen?

by surfsidefinance
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We are a digitally connected society. With that comes greater opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit the vulnerabilities of our modern digital world. Criminals have become very savvy when it comes to stealing credit card information. It’s important to understand their tactics so you can prevent or at least stop them from doing so.

How do people steal credit card numbers?
Criminals can obtain your personal information in a number of common ways. You may be surprised at how low-tech some of these methods are, but they are still effective.

Phishing emails
Fraudsters have become sophisticated enough to create official-looking emails from banks or retail stores that you already have a relationship with. These fake emails will ask you to click on a link or provide your personal information, such as social security number, account number or date of birth. Some will claim that this is a request from the company to prove your identity, even if the other end is actually just cyber criminals. Legitimate companies will never ask you to provide your personal information via email, so do not click on any links or respond to any suspicious emails.

Public Wireless Networks
If you are using a device connected to a public shared Internet connection, you are vulnerable to hacking. For example, suppose you are at your favorite coffee shop and you are automatically connected to their public Wi-Fi. if you decide to use your phone to do some billing or other banking inside this coffee shop, you are at risk of cyber criminals hacking into your device through this Wi-Fi channel.

Unless you are sure you are using a password-protected Wi-Fi connection, avoid making online purchases or doing anything that would reveal your credit card or bank account details. Any public place that provides “guest” Wi-Fi access without a password is at risk for any type of online shopping or banking.

Data Breach
If you have given your credit card information to a trusted company (such as an online retailer, subscription service or financial institution) and that company is hacked, your information may be vulnerable to fraudulent activity or potential identity theft. It is not uncommon for a large organization to be dealing with a data breach that has resulted in the compromise of thousands or even millions of people’s personal information in the news headlines.

Card separators
A card reader is a device mounted on a card reader that collects credit card numbers. Thieves can then recover and use the stolen information to make fraudulent purchases. In some cases, skimmers take the form of a miniature camera placed on a card reader. They are most commonly found at gas stations, ATMs, retail stores and even some restaurants. In other cases, fake keypads are placed over real ATM keypads and fraudsters are able to retain information about the numbers entered. Thieves work hard to ensure that their devices are integrated with the card reader, making them difficult to detect.

Spyware and Malware
Malware is an acronym for “malicious software” that sits in the background of your computer and collects your personal information. Also known as spyware, it starts recording your keystrokes and browser history as soon as it gains access to your computer by clicking on links to websites or suspicious emails. In addition to invading privacy, it allows hackers to impersonate you and even sell your data.

Family Fraud
When a family member or someone you know uses your card or opens a new account in your name without your permission, this is called family fraud and is a form of identity theft. This is usually done by someone who has easy access to your personally identifiable information (PII). If this fraud originates from someone you know or trust, it may take a while for you to realize that it is happening.

Lost Credit Cards
It is not uncommon for people to lose their physical cards and then have thieves use them to make purchases. If you discover that your card is missing, it is important to call your credit card company immediately and freeze your account. Many banking apps also offer the option to freeze your account directly from your own device.

Mail and Spam
While it may seem like an outdated and simple method of stealing data, some criminals may still physically pass through your physical mailbox or spam folder. Credit card account numbers, financial statements and sensitive information about your investments and retirement funds can be found. If possible, do not discard important financial statements without first shredding them.

How to check if your credit card information has been stolen
You may not know your information has been stolen until you see an unfamiliar charge on your monthly statement. For this reason, you need to check every transaction on your statement.

However, credit card companies have sophisticated fraud monitoring systems in place to assist with this problem. These fraud alerts may let you know if a suspected fraud is detected and allow you to confirm or deny whether the suspicious charge is indeed yours. If a fraudulent charge is detected, the card issuer will cancel the card and issue you a new card.

If you do not receive a fraud alert, but still suspect that your card has been lost or stolen, you can always proactively request a new card and account number from your card issuer. You can also speak with a customer service representative by phone and they will review recent credit card activity with you.

What to do if your credit card information is stolen
Contact your credit card issuer: If you suspect you have been the victim of fraud, you should contact your card issuer immediately to report it. You can contact your card issuer through the phone number on the back of your card or through the online agent chat feature on the issuer’s website. Card issuers generally offer zero liability protection for unauthorized purchases. But reporting credit card fraud through the proper channels is only the first step.
Freeze your card account: You need to consider freezing your account immediately. You can do this by calling your card issuer and making a request, or by using your card issuer’s banking application to initiate a freeze. Freezing your credit card will temporarily prevent purchases from being made using your credit card number.
Continue to monitor: Continue to review your financial statements and any other accounts you must identify to determine if unauthorized activity is occurring in multiple locations in your name.
Protect yourself and others from credit card fraud
There are a number of proactive steps you can take to protect yourself from credit card fraud.

Check your credit report. All three major credit bureaus allow a free credit check once a year. You will need to do this to confirm that all activity on your report is accurate. If you want to try Chase’s free service called Credit Journey, you’ll receive alerts when your credit report changes or your personal information is exposed due to a data breach.
Monitor your monthly statements. Make sure you pay close attention to every transaction listed on your statement. If you do discover a fraudulent charge, you need to notify your credit card company immediately.
Do not provide personally identifiable information via email or phone. If you receive an email or phone call claiming to have an “emergency” and that you must provide your personal details or credit card number, do not comply. This may be a fraudulent scheme.
Shred printed financial statements. Before throwing any financial documents or credit card statements in the trash, send them through a shredder to minimize the possibility of someone using this information fraudulently.
In summary
Cybercriminals use a variety of tactics to gain access to your personal information. Protect yourself by understanding their most common schemes and taking proactive steps to avoid them. If you believe your credit card information has actually been compromised, contact your credit card issuer immediately. Many issuers offer zero liability protection against unauthorized purchases. Be sure to check your account activity regularly to quickly identify any anomalies.

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