When you let your credit card out of sight, it only takes seconds for your information to be stolen.
Thieves today don’t even need brute strength, but instead just a little bit of skill to steal your credit card data. The schemes are simpler than you can imagine.
Here are some of the most common ways how thieves steal your credit card information.
1. Data breaches
In the case of a data breach, a hacker or a team of hackers will use malicious software to log into the financial institution’s stored credit card information.
With so many businesses and customers going online in the past two years, this can happen more often than you know. Thieves are always o the lookout for weaknesses in the online ecosystem and data dumps by online payment providers or ecommerce websites can provide the opportunity that thieves can exploit.
There are also instances where someone who works for the institution or has access to the institution’s files would steal card information manually while on the job. This information may include card numbers, expiration dates and security codes.
So what happens to these pieces of data when they’re in no-good hands? They get sold. The person who buys the information verifies it and then sells it to a person who creates fraudulent credit cards with your account information attached to it. The illegitimate card maker then sells it to other criminals to buy goods and sells them to regular consumers.
Set up mobile alerts for your phone so you will be aware of any unusual activity, the minute it happens. It is also advisable that you keep track of all your transactions for a personal reference. Later, compare your personal record against the bank’s record, to ensure they match. At the same time, ensure the websites you use for online financial transactions are secure and reputable.
2. Card skimmers
Credit card skimming is another common way card numbers are stolen. This can be done when a small device is inserted into an ATM or credit card reader to store information when a card is swiped. A waiter at a restaurant or the petrol station attendee may use a skimmer to steal card information when he takes a customer’s card to pay for a meal.
Skimming devices are designed to be small and discreet, so you would not notice them unless you were specifically looking for a skimmer.
The ATM may even be accompanied by a camera somewhere above the keypad so the hackers can track PINs associated with the cards. The information from the skimmer is collected by either manually removing the skimmer from the machine or transmitting the information through Bluetooth to a phone or PC.
Check the ATM and the card reader for any foreign devices before using it. Such as odd objects on the devices.
3. Phishing emails
Thieves may also steal card information through fraudulent emails. Phishing emails are designed to look like they are from a legitimate institution, one you may be familiar with or frequently visit.
Phishers gain your trust by using familiar logos and company names to represent themselves, or scaring you into believing that your personal information is already compromised, and that you need to provide information immediately for damage control.
The emails will direct you to a fake website that looks almost identical to the real site. When you key-in your login details or your card number, the phishers capture your data. When you open the attachment, malware instantly downloads onto the computer and leaves confidential information vulnerable.
Don’t click on a link that comes to you in an unsolicited email, no matter how legit it looks (looks can be deceiving). If you need to do anything online, go to the actual website and log in. Even then, it’s important to check that the URL is the correct one. Also, contact the relevant institution if you get suspicious emails. Bear in mind that banks never ask you to send passwords, login ids, or other personal information through e-mail or over the phone. Your bank would naturally have all these details and would not require you to refurbish them.
Thieves may steal your credit card information by mail by offering you a fake special offer or promotion. They may say you have won a prize or a trip and the company needs a cheque, money order or credit card number to secure your prize. The moment you send that return letter in the mail, you give them the tools they need to steal your card information.
Call and verify the legitimacy of the company before you give your card details. A little extra homework can save you hundreds and even thousands of Ringgit!
5. Phone calls
You may get a phone call from someone trying to take your card information – possibly alerting you about a possible issue with your credit card, even if one does not exist. The caller may tell you about an overdue bill you need to pay right away to keep your account active.
Be wary of emails, mail, calls or text messages requesting personal information, regardless of the source. Don’t provide any of your information until you’ve called your issuer (the contact number on the back of your credit card) and verified the validity of the request for yourself.
Never give out your credit card information on any phone call unless you have initiated that phone call to a trusted company and verified phone number.
6. Malware & spyware hacking
Malware is a type of software that damages or infiltrates a computer or network on a legitimate website with low security. The malware instantly downloads onto your computer when you visit the site and allows the hacker to access your information.
Spyware, on the other hand, is a software designed to collect your information without your knowledge or consent. It can collect personal data like credit card and banking information, as well as user logins from the computers it’s installed on.
In a common scenario, a hacker may install malware on public computers and gathers the information you share with that computer. Hacker also infiltrates the computer system of banks, retailers and other businesses and extracts personal account information.
Do not enter your credit card details, or even log in to your banking account on a public computer, or even public network, like the Wi-Fi at the café down the street. To avoid malware and spyware attack on your personal computer, ensure you have the latest anti-virus software with the anti-malware function. Don’t download anything you are unsure of and avoid illegal file-sharing websites. To be safe, read disclosures before downloading anything off the Internet.
Credit card fraud can happen to anyone, but there are things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.
- Set up mobile alerts for your phone if your financial institution provides the feature. That way, you will be aware of any unusual activity.
- Regularly monitor your credit card accounts, so you can identify fraudulent transactions if any.
- Set up an email account just for your finances and check it only from safe locations. Avoid using public computers when using your credit card or your email that would contain your personal and financial information.
- Stick to purchasing using your credit card with established merchants and websites. Avoid doing business with unfamiliar online vendors.
- If your credit card information has been compromised, immediately notify the corresponding financial institution and local law enforcement.
- Shred your financial documents or opt for paperless billing. When possible, opt for email communications instead of snail mail.
- Whether you call it cautious optimism, realism or straight-up scepticism, you should be aware that scams exist and you could be the victim. Avoid giving personal information to unknown or distrusted sources, clicking on suspicious links and downloading software from unknown sites.
Don’t let yourself fall victim to credit card details theft. Keep your financial data private and monitor your accounts regularly. And, alert the proper authorities at the first sign of any trouble.