A swipe here, a swipe there — as methods of payment become increasingly digital, using a credit card at the pump or grocery store just feels easier. Who has time to fumble around with cash and change when you can just stick a credit card in a chip reader and call it a day?
76% of U.S. adults have at least one credit card, but the average American has 3.4 credit cards in his or her wallet. While the convenience and ease of “swipe now, pay later” is paramount in our fast-paced lives, it also creates countless opportunities for identity thieves. Identity thieves love stealing credit card information because they can use it to make big purchases — and then sell the numbers off to other thieves who plan to do the same. Because of this, credit card fraud is among the most prevalent forms of identity theft in the country.
How does this happen? If so many cards have added a chip for extra security and online retailers claim to offer all sorts of safeguards, why is credit card identity theft still happening? Identity thieves are resourceful — and they have no qualms about trying many different thieving methods until they find one that works.
Credit Card Identity Theft Can Happen in a Variety of Ways
Identity thieves are always trying out new methods to steal credit card information, but these are some of the most common techniques they love to use:
- Trash picking – You know those credit card offers you get in the mail, never open, and throw in your recycling bin? Or how about the credit card statements you get in the mail, skim quickly, and then toss in the trash? Identity thieves love trash day because the truly brazen criminals have no problem picking through your garbage to find the Holy Grail of dumpster diving: credit card information. You can’t prevent identity thieves from looking through your trash, but you can invest in a great shredder that will transform your bills and credit card offers into tiny, illegible pieces.
- Credit card skimmers – Skimmers are devices that thieves hook up to ATMs and gas pumps that record credit and debit card numbers, as well as PINs. They’ve become increasingly sophisticated over the years and unfortunately, credit card skimmers are tough to spot. The best way to avoid them? Check your gut and use an ATM inside a bank, if possible (they’re less likely to be compromised).
- Scams – Credit card identity theft scams come in all shapes and sizes; some thieves will call you over the phone, while others send phishing e-mails. They may tell you that you’ve won something, or that you owe money to someone, like the IRS. Identity thieves are cooking up new scams all the time, so your best course of action is to guard your credit card information carefully and never give it away to people you have not contacted directly.
- Data breaches – Sometimes you can do everything possible to keep your credit cards safe from prying eyes, and still have your information stolen. That is because not all identity thieves target consumers — many target companies that you do business with. Hackers break into their systems or install malware, and extract sensitive customer information for identity theft purposes. Why target one person at a time when you can focus on one company and get thousands — possibly millions — of credit card numbers?
Don’t Become a Victim of Credit Card Identity Theft
Unfortunately, there are many ways that thieves steal our credit card numbers. If there is a way in, they are going to find it. It’s up to you to be vigilant about protecting your sensitive information and only giving it out when necessary. Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid shoulder surfing when you use your credit card. Check your account statements regularly, which is easy to do every day with online account access and make sure that you contact your credit card company immediately if you spot anything suspicious.
You can’t always count on credit card companies to catch fraud right away — but you can depend on IdentityTheft to monitor your credit reports 24/7. As part of our identity and credit monitoring services, we constantly monitor your credit files to look for key changes or red flags. We keep an eye out for new accounts, credit inquiries, credit limit being exceeded, or missed payments, and will alert you immediately if we see something suspicious. Try IdentityTheft free today and enjoy the peace of mind our identity theft protection service offers.