How people steal credit card numbers: 8 common methods

November 03, 2023

  • # Payment Protection
  • # Phishing Protection
  • # Account Protection

As convenient as credit cards are, they come with the unsettling reality that someone might steal this sensitive information. It’s a tale as old as the plastic itself, where cunning individuals exploit vulnerabilities in our increasingly interconnected world.

But if you thoroughly understand a problem, you can take strategic action toward mitigating it. This article deep-dives into how people steal credit card numbers and offers various strategies for avoiding theft — or effectively handling it when it occurs.

How can someone use your credit card without having it?

Unfortunately, there are too many ways a fraudster can steal credit card data — and most don’t involve viewing your physical card. Here are eight of the most popular credit card scamming methods:

  1. Skimming: Criminals attach skimmers to ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) terminals that capture and store all the info on your card's magnetic strip.

  2. Phishing: Pretending to be a reputable organization, fraudsters use fake emails, websites, and phone calls to trick individuals into revealing card details.

  3. Carding: Illegal online marketplaces sell credit card info. 

  4. Physical theft: Someone steals the details off your physical card.

  5. Mail theft: Criminals steal credit card statements, new cards, or other relevant information directly from your mailbox.

  6. Data breaches: Large-scale data breaches can expose user credit card and debit card numbers.

  7. Wi-Fi eavesdropping: Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks can leak card information to eavesdroppers looking to capture sensitive data.

  8. Spyware/Malware: Someone might install malicious software on your device that captures these details.

Which scams are the most common?

Awareness is your first line of defense against credit card fraud. Here are three of the most common causes of theft.

1. Phishing

Phishing is what you should be most wary of, especially if you like to shop online. These fraudsters use seemingly legitimate websites to capture your credit card data — and no, you don’t receive your shopping cart goods. 

Phishers might also attack via social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, offering fake promotional deals and sending you to links for fraudulent sites. 

2. Data breaches

Companies store oft-vast amounts of user data, and if a business experiences a data breach, this might involve leaked credit card information. Typically, the company is responsible for restoring lost finances, but the situation can still be quite stressful.

3. Social commerce sites

Shopping has never been easier via well-loved social platforms like TikTok and Instagram. But it’s also increasingly easy for fakers to create seemingly reputable digital storefronts on these platforms, tricking viewers into purchasing from fake sites that steal data without offering any product.

Signs your credit card numbers have been stolen

Early detection is crucial to minimize the damage caused by credit card fraud. Here are a few common signs your information is compromised:

  • Unfamiliar transactions: Check your account statements regularly for strange charges.

  • Unexpected account statements: Receiving statements for accounts you didn’t open is a red flag.

  • Credit report discrepancies: A dropped credit score can indicate theft.

  • Calls from debt collectors: Receiving calls about unknown debts is a clear warning sign.

  • Emails or calls from creditors: Creditors contacting you regarding late payments for accounts you didn’t open is a sign of potential fraud.

  • Declined transactions: If your credit card is declined or your bank notifies you of insufficient funds, this might signify theft.

What to do if your credit card numbers are stolen

Wondering who to report the scam to? Here are details about this and other crucial next steps: 

  • Contact your card issuer so they can block the physical card, freeze the account, and issue you a new one.

  • File a police report to create an official record, which might help resolve any disputes with the credit card company.

  • Check your credit score for and resolve any discrepancies.

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports so people must verify their identity if they try to open accounts under your name.

  • Monitor your accounts regularly for suspicious activity. 

  • Update your online passwords to protect all accounts, using a reputable password manager or other increasingly secure method.

Tips for preventing credit card fraud

Even though resolving the issue is fairly simple, it’s still a hassle. Avoid credit card theft altogether with the following tips.

Regularly monitor your accounts

Set up reminders for checking account statements and credit card reports to detect unusual activity promptly.

Avoid joining insecure networks

As convenient as it is, public Wi-Fi isn’t recommended when making transactions since bad actors can more easily install malware on your device that steals sensitive data. Whenever possible, choose password-protected networks and use a VPN. 

Enable transaction alerts

A quick way to better protect your banking account is to create alerts for every transaction.

Stay guarded against phishing scams

Be wary of unsolicited requests for card info, verifying the requester's authenticity before sharing sensitive details and checking whether a website is safe before purchasing from it.

Use IronVest’s virtual cards

IronVest offers pre-funded virtual cards that protect your credit card info — a great tactic when shopping online. 

Elevate your financial security with IronVest

Credit card fraud isn’t the only way data becomes compromised. But understanding, avoiding, and mitigating the various cyber-threats out there is daunting — let us take that work off your plate.

IronVest is a personal security and privacy-focused super app that offers a comprehensive toolkit against every digital data threat. Get IronVest today and enjoy being one step closer to complete data security.

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