March 10, 2015

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Stolen Credit Cards – How it Happens

Your credit card might be stashed in a drawer, or even cut up as part of a personal finances makeover, but then you find out you’re under a credit freeze because of fraudulent activity on that card. What happened?

Security expert Brian Krebs recently wrote that there are several common forms of credit card fraud, including the kind that stems from thieves infecting point-of-sale devices with malicious software. In other words, you go out to dinner and use your credit card, and the waiter unwittingly sets you up for theft with a quick swipe through the restaurant’s credit card machine.

But even if you don’t use your card often — or ever — fraud networks are in place to nab the card’s information.

Target Practice

Thieves can target vendors instead of individuals, which means that wherever your records reside, they may be at risk. For example, thieves might hack into a company that processes transactions between banks that issue credit cards and merchant banks. That means your info is compromised simply because you’ve been issued the card, even if you’ve never used it.

Another method that targets individuals more directly is phishing, which involves emails that have seemingly innocent Web links, but actually install malware on your computer when clicked. This malicious software lets a thief into your computer so that he or she can see your keystrokes, including your passwords for getting into financial accounts.

In either case, you might not suspect anything has happened until fraudulent charges show up on your card or you find yourself in a credit freeze because charges are racking up quickly.

To make matters worse, thieves tend to sell credit card numbers multiple times, and in turn, those buyers can resell them as well. Sometimes, criminals even print plastic cards that have the stolen numbers and use them before you or your bank even notice the problem.

Guard Against Credit Card Fraud

You can take a variety of steps to protect your credit card information, including reviewing your monthly credit card statements and verifying that charges are appropriate. Chip-and-PIN credit cards offer another layer of security.

You may also want to switch over to “smart” credit cards whenever they’re available from your financial institution. These cards carry extra security measures and major retailers are upgrading their systems to accommodate them.

The Bottom Line

Credit card fraud is rampant, and it’s important to be aware of how thieves obtain and use stolen credit card information. Our identity protection services can help keep your identity safe and prevent damage from occurring. While coverage in a service like UltraSecure+Credit doesn’t mean you should stop checking your credit card statements, it offers peace of mind and an added layer of protection in handling fraud attempts.

And if credit card fraud ever leads to problems, IdentityForce provides complete, comprehensive restoration services, with Certified Protection Experts who are available 24/7.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we explain the difference between credit card fraud and identity theft.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ciaran McGuiggan.

Judy Leary

President at IdentityForce
For Judy, identity theft protection is in her DNA—her dad started IdentityForce’s parent company in the 70s, and in the 80s, she and her brother came on board. She loves her dedicated team and how much they care about every member, partner, and supplier. In addition to protection against identity theft, Judy is passionate about travel (Aruba is her “happy place”!) and giving back. She volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. She’s also a proud mom to 2 grown daughters and 3 rescue dogs.

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