Did you know that your credit card can be stolen without a criminal ever needing to touch it? Just because you pay attention to your surroundings and take precautions against being pickpocketed, it doesn’t mean that your credit card information is safe.
Thieves are using increasingly advanced technology to steal your data, and you may not even know it’s happening. Credit card skimmers are physical devices that read your card information. Criminals can then sell this information or use it to make purchases, open accounts, and more.
Credit card companies and law enforcement are working to combat these types of thefts, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. Ways to protect yourself include monitoring your account activity and being careful about where you use your credit card.
In this post, we’ll discuss how your credit card can be stolen and what thieves do with your information. We’ll also reveal how to protect yourself from credit card theft and what to do if your credit card details fall into the wrong hands.
Credit card details can be stolen in a number of ways, including through hacking and social engineering (where you provide details under false pretenses). But thieves can also steal credit card details through the use of physical devices called credit card skimmers.
The skimmer is attached to an ATM, gas pump, or other device that you use to make a transaction. When you insert or swipe your card, the skimmer reads and stores your credit card number and other data such as the cardholder name and expiration date.
Some skimmers are very small and can be difficult to detect. They may even be integrated into the device itself, making it nearly impossible for you to know that your card has been compromised.
In addition to skimming devices, thieves use other physical methods to steal credit card information. These include hidden cameras or fake ATM keypads, both of which are often used to capture PINs.
It’s estimated that credit card skimming costs consumers and financial institutions over $1 billion per year.
Once a thief has stolen your credit card information using a skimmer, he or she can do several things with it. Often, thieves will sell the data to other criminals who specialize in credit card fraud. These criminals then use this information to create counterfeit cards and make purchases or withdraw money from your account.
Credit card details are typically sold on the dark web, a section of the internet that is only accessible through special web browsers and is rife with criminal activity.
Other thieves may use the information to steal directly from your bank account, for example, through online or other card-not-present transactions, or in person at a branch. Credit card details can also be used in other forms of identity theft, such as setting up new accounts or taking out loans in your name.
There are several ways that you can protect yourself from credit card theft and skimmers:
Some machines are easier for criminals to target than others. Be especially careful when using your credit card at ATMs and gas stations. If possible, you should choose an ATM inside a bank branch, where cameras and security guards can help deter thieves.
Cameras at ATMs are often simple to spot but skimming devices can be more difficult to detect. That said, they may be noticeable if you examine the machine carefully. A skimming device will often have a different color scheme and stand out a little from the rest of the unit upon close inspection. Damage to the card reading machine should also be a red flag, indicating it may have been tampered with.
Even if you don’t see any obvious cameras, you should always make a habit of covering a keypad from outside view when entering your PIN. You never know where a hidden camera could be placed or who could be watching.
If you believe your credit card information has been stolen, it’s important to notify your credit card company and file a police report immediately. This can help you recover any money that has been taken from your accounts, as well as prevent any further damage.
If possible, it can be helpful to freeze your credit card account until you are able to get a new one. This will prevent thieves from using your information to open any new accounts or make purchases.
You should also keep an especially close eye on your accounts to check that no suspicious charges have been made, and check your credit report regularly for signs of fraudulent activity. Contact the credit bureaus if you find anything suspicious.
You may choose to use an identity theft monitoring service that can do most of this on your behalf. For example, Identity Defense will monitor your accounts and credit reports and alert you to any suspicious activity. It will also walk you through all the steps you need to take to recover from credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by Identity Defense. Identity Defense is offering up to 50% off their service for US based Sixty and Me readers.
How do you protect your credit cards from theft or fraud? Have you had to quickly block a card because of suspected fraud? What steps did you take?