Most consumers use at least one credit card regularly. This can be for purchases in person, online or for recurring purchases. And sadly, not very many people regularly log in to the website to monitor the charges that are appearing on their card.
They wait until the statement arrives and half-heartedly scan it if the balance is larger than expected.
So many times it can be months before a consumer realizes that they are a victim of stolen credit card fraud.
Only then do they begin to look into fraud protection and learning all of the different ways that the thieves can use their credit card and personal information against them.
Time Is Money
Credit card thieves are not stupid. They know that there is likely to be a finite amount of time for them to use your stolen credit card. They know that most consumers are lax and that they have until the next credit card statement arrives in the mailbox or inbox to make as big a score as possible at your expense. So they treat themselves to a grand shopping spree to in a mall or other location where there is a heavy concentration of stores to choose from. Many credit card companies have sophisticated algorithms which are designed to detect unusual shopping habits. So the purchase of a high end item can trigger a security check or freeze on the card. In addition, several out of state purchases can also activate a check. So thieves want to get into as many stores as they can in a short time period to maximize their haul. They are not shopping for pleasure but for resale value. They want designer clothing, jewelry and electronics that can easily be sold online to turn a great profit. The goal is to amass thousands of dollars in desirable items in less than 30 minutes. That reduces their chances of being caught if the credit card is flagged and the retailer is asked to call the credit card company.
Cash Advance Is Always Good
Consumers rarely consider that a thief might try to use an ATM to get a cash advance from a stolen credit card. But if the thief has your entire wallet or purse then odds are good that they can figure out the PIN for your card. Again, consumers lack of concern can be costly. Too many people still use a date of birth, part of their Social Security number or even a house number as their PIN. It is easy to remember but also easy for someone else to figure out. Your best defense is the use of strong passwords and PINs. Selecting a pattern rather than a number that is connected to you in some way makes it more difficult for a thief to figure out.
Selling Your Card and Info
Some thieves are not willing to take the risk of using the card themselves. They are aware of the fraud protection and how quickly a card can be frozen. They are willing to commit a small crime but are not willing to take the greater risk of using the card and substantially increasing the risk of being caught. They are only interested in selling your card and any additional information that they can add to make the card more useful to another criminal and therefore more valuable. The card number and expiration date are only worth a few dollars but adding in the security code on the back adds to the value. And having the PIN and additional information about the cardholder makes them very valuable. This allows the more brazen thief to make purchases that might not appear to be fraudulent as they blend in with the card holder’s normal purchases. Their hope is that they have a longer window to use the card as the fraud detection department is not calling the cardholder to verify the card’s location.
A New Twist on Money Laundering
The easiest way for a criminal to get money from a stolen credit card is by purchasing gift cards. They go to a store and buy a large number of gift cards in different denominations and for different retailers. Now even when you figure out that your card is missing and have it frozen, the thief can still use the gift cards and have no worries of being caught. There is no expiration on the gift cards so they can use them personally or sell them to someone else. And in today’s thrifty economy, buying a large number of gift cards does not even appear that unusual. Many shoppers do this each week to maximize rewards points on credit cards or to get a bonus on fuel points from a supermarket chain.
The Patient Approach
There are still other thieves who think that no one will notice just a single missing credit card. They might have found your entire wallet but only chosen to take a single card. Their plan is to keep making small purchases online and cash in over time. All they need to do is use a postal drop off service to be sure that their packages never lead right to their door step. This is not as much a get rich quick scheme as it is an ongoing life of crime plan. They selectively acquire cards and hope to use them for months if not years along with all of the other cards that they have stolen. Stolen credit card fraud is a growing problem and one that every consumer needs to be aware of. The best way to avoid issues is to keep a close eye on your cards and your accounts on a regular basis. In addition, select strong passwords and PINs in case your card or card number is ever stolen. There are some types of credit card fraud that are beyond your ability to avoid such as a retailer being breached but you can be vigilant about the location of your credit card and when and where you choose to use it.