Top Ways Credit Cards Are Stolen

July 22, 2013, Written By Sarah Hefner

Not too long ago, the only way someone could steal your credit card was if he came up to you and took it from your wallet. Now, there are countless techniques on stealing your credit card information, even if you keep the physical credit card itself. In order to stay safe in these ever-changing times, you need to be aware of these methods. The list below highlights the top ways credit cards are stolen.

Physical Credit Card Theft

The oldest form of credit card theft involves stealing your card directly from you. This is most likely to happen in cities where pick-pocketers run rampant. If your wallet or purse is left unattended, you may lose your card. When this happens, call your credit card provider right away and make sure your card is canceled. Then, order a new card.

Online Credit Card Theft

The Internet opens a number of new doors for credit card fraud, so you have to be careful when you use it. There are countless examples of people having their credit card information stolen because hackers were able to get into databases for popular websites. More than 250 users on Rakuten.com recently reported unauthorized charges on their cards as a result of using the site. Someone hacked into the system and took all the information they needed to charge the credit cards of people in the system.

There is no fool proof way to avoid identity theft online, other than not buying anything on the Internet whatsoever. Assuming you do not want to take matters to that extreme, you need to at least make sure that the sites you go onto are trusted and secure. Look in the browser to make sure the site begins with “https”. You should be able to see security verification at the bottom of the site’s homepage or somewhere in the terms of use. Read reviews of the site before putting your credit card information online. Also, make sure that your Internet security is fully functioning in case someone hacks into your computer while you are on the site. If you are well protected, the number of issues should be minimized.

Credit Card Skimming

Credit card skimming is another modern form of theft that has become a big issue. This is partially due to the development of RFID credit cards, which do not have to be swiped. Thieves can steal credit card information by waving special scanners over these cards. In some cases, all it takes is a smart phone app and sneaky timing.

Credit card skimming also involves the use of special card readers that can be hidden in ATM machines, POS systems and even pants pockets. In this case, you may insert a card thinking you’re making a payment or withdrawing money, when in reality, you’re giving up your credit card information. The device stores this information for the thief to pull up at a later time, and before you know it, your account is drained.

To protect yourself from credit card skimming, be careful when giving out your credit card. If you can, watch the person swipe the card and make sure it is in the right processor. If you use RFID cards, get some Tyvek sleeves to put around them. This will block the signal from other people so your card is only charged when you want it to be.

Phone Credit Card Theft

Another way credit cards are stolen is through the telephone. Have you ever gotten a call from a strange number alerting you about issues on your card? You may have thought nothing of this, but that could have been a credit card thief trying to steal your identity. The person will ask some generic questions about your life, but he or she may also ask for your name, address, social security number or credit card number. The more information you give, the bigger risk you take.

Ideally, you need to avoid giving out your information unless you know exactly who you are talking to. If you did not call the company yourself, you may want to hold off on communication entirely. It is better to be cautious than to lose your credit card or identity.

Watch Your Account

Keep an eye on your credit card accounts at all times. If you start to see unauthorized charges appear, contact the credit card company immediately to have the charges reversed. Cancel that credit card and ask for a new one. As long as you are mindful of your accounts and the threats to them, you will significantly cut down on the chances of your credit card being stolen.



The information contained within this article was accurate as of July 22, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Sarah Hefner

Sarah Hefner has written for several publications as well as serving as an editor to various writers. She graduated from the School of Communications & Journalism at Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations.
View all posts by Sarah Hefner