Credit & Debit Card Fraud

What It Is

Credit or Debit Card Fraud happens when one person steals another person's credit card and makes charges under that person's name. Thieves can steal the actual card, steal the credit card number to use in online transactions, or intercept the credit card in the mail before the owner ever receives it.

How It Happens

Your bank /credit cards can be stolen from your mailbox, purse, wallet, car, home, workplace, or used without permission by a family member, coworker, or friend.

Even if your card itself is not stolen, your card number alone may also be stolen by being written down, a carbon imprint, or by being sold online. These card numbers may be used by thieves online to purchase online services, pay bills, or to buy products that are shipped (usually to a fraudulent address where they are then diverted or stolen). Sometimes there are viable leads for law enforcement, but often there are not.

Additionally, a credit card’s electronic data may be stolen by more technologically advanced means. Credit card skimming devices may be hidden in a gas pump or ATM. Card skimmers capture the electronic data on the magnetic stripe on your card and may be used later by crooks to make a counterfeit card that swipes and works just like your original card. PIN capturing devices may also be present, so it is not advised to use your PIN unless necessary at an ATM or cash-back situation. If your card number and PIN are stolen through a skimming device, thieves may be able to withdraw funds from your account through an ATM and the bank will assume it is you using your card. Credit card data may also be stolen through a larger-scale hacking or a business compromise that is out of your control. Online use of credit cards is usually safe through reputable companies and is not more common than in person thefts of credit card information.

How to Avoid

  • Be alert to anything unusual when you use your card: strange looking ATM card slot, an employee who takes your card out of sight or has unusual delays or behavior.
  • Do not lend your card to anyone or allow anyone to see you enter your PIN Don't worry about being rude, cover it up.
  • Don't store your banking or credit card information on your computer or in your email account. Those accounts can be hacked without you knowing.
  • Fully complete any transactions at an ATM. Make sure you get your card and receipt.
  • If you use your card for online purchases, it is advised to use one credit card with a low credit limit for those purchases, so you can keep track of them and more easily assist law enforcement if needed. A debit card linked to your bank account should never be used online.
  • It is not advised to give your card number to a vendor over the phone or by mail.
  • Keep valuables with you, not in your vehicle. But if you must leave them, hide your belongings and lock your car.
  • Memorize your PIN; do not write it on a card or paper. Never tell it to anyone.
  • Never give account information to a caller or official-looking email that claims to be from your bank and requests it for verification. Your bank will never do this. This is called "phishing."
  • Never hang your purse over the back of a chair in a restaurant. This is a common way credit cards are stolen, especially in restaurants where you pay first then sit and chat for a long time. Thieves are betting you won't notice your card is gone for hours or days!
  • Never leave your purse in a shopping basket. Take a small wallet with you that holds your debit card and ID in your pocket if your purse is heavy. Thieves will distract you while an accomplice steals your wallet. You wont know until it's time to pay and they have purchased thousands of dollars of merchandise in nearby stores.
  • Report a missing card or suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
  • Safeguard your credit and debit cards like you would your cash - it is!