How Credit Card Information is Stolen

credit card thief using card in front of computer

How Credit Card Information is Stolen

Modern pickpockets use both physical and digital means to swipe personal and account information from your credit card. In most cases, it takes only an instant and leaves behind little traceable evidence that can lead back to the culprit. Most victims don’t even realize they have been exploited until it’s too late.

Methods of Stealing Credit Card Info

Credit Card Skimmers

Skimmers made to extract personal and account information from credit cards continue to evolve just behind credit card security enhancements. Credit card companies have to continue to think of innovative ways to prevent information collecting skimmers from taking advantage of their technologies.

Security innovations such as radio data transmission have had little success in countering the tenacity of skimmers. Each new kind of skimmer performs the same task: it reads the same information on the card that ATMs, card readers, and POS systems read to complete transactions.

A skimmer is difficult to recognize because it comes in different shapes and sizes. They can look like:

  • Small, rectangular card swipers
  • Tablet-sized blocks
  • Phone-sized handheld devices
  • Miniature transmitter and receivers

The devices don’t stop there. Most are designed to resemble everyday electronic equipment that won’t catch the eye of bystanders or law enforcement.


Digital thieves use malware programmed to collect precious account information from low-security websites that sell goods and services.

Websites with poor security cannot be monitored 24 hours a day, so criminals have small opportunities to install malware while avoiding detection from security software and engineers.
Once the software is installed, it can take information from any transactions that occur before it is detected.

Scams also pull unwitting victims into malware traps. False emails or unruly websites can cause Internet users who aren’t paying attention to involuntarily download malware. The malware then looks for stored information such as credit card numbers and passwords that will allow criminals to make transactions.

Phishing Emails

Some thieves use the power of the written word to trick users into giving up their information willingly. By posing as legitimate business and customer service representatives, phishing artists pull information from over 80,000 victims every day.

Paper Bills

When you throw out your paper bills, don’t forget that they almost always contain sensitive information. Also, be aware of what appears on your bank statements and closely safeguard any tax-related information. Credit card info thieves can easily sift through your trash to get what they need for full-scale identity theft.

Ways to Combat Stolen Credit Card Info

You are not powerless when it comes to defending your credit card information. Consider the following before and after your transactions:

  1. Watch your accounts
    Keep an eye on your money. Check a few times daily to make sure that there aren’t any large changes or strange transactions appearing in your bank or credit card account.
  2. Don’t use public computers for personal business
    Make all deals and purchases from your personal computer. Make sure that computer is password protected and that you’ve installed the latest antivirus software.
  3. Buy only from trusted merchants
    Do your research before handing money over to strange merchants. There are entire websites dedicated to reviews for merchants who have not earned a lot of trust yet.
  4. Get mobile alerts
    Let your credit card company or bank do the hard work for you. With mobile alerts, you’ll know about unusual activity in your accounts the moment it happens.
  5. Contact law enforcement
    If you discover that your information has been stolen, contact your local authorities first. Your credit card company can serve you better if you have a police report on hand.
  6. Contact your credit card company
    After a credit card information theft, let your credit card company know that your information has been compromised. Most companies will work with you toward a solution.

If you are a merchant, make sure you buy modern equipment with the latest security features to protect the credit card information of your customers. You’ll save both you and your customer time and money by investing in quality credit card processing equipment and installation.

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