The Basics of Credit Card Theft

Credit card theft affects millions of Americans every year. According to 2009 reports from the Federal Trade Commission‚ there are on average roughly 9 million identity theft victims annually‚ and compromised credit cards are among the most common instances of the crime. No matter how careful you think you are about protecting your accounts and keeping your credit card out of harm’s way‚ thieves employ many methods to get a hold of credit information.

How common is it?

Based on the 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) the number of compromised records skyrocketed to 174 million in 2011 creating the second highest data loss total since 2004. This was an abnormal year‚ as security breaches of this scale are extremely rare. But these figures show that thieves are constantly searching for new ways to get a hold of personal identification information‚ like Social Security numbers‚ to access a consumer’s line of credit or even steal their identity.

How does it happen?

Large-scale security breaches are hardly the only way that credit card theft occurs. For starters‚ stealing the credit card itself may be the most basic route a criminal will take. If you forget your credit card at the counter when you pay for something at a store‚ it could be only a matter of seconds before someone comes along and decides to use your card to purchases their items‚ making you a victim of credit card theft. Even leaving the receipt on the counter following a credit transaction could leave a thief with enough information to access your line of credit. Because these documents have pieces of the account number along with your name and other important dates‚ a skilled thief could easily use it to put the puzzle together.

What can you do about it?

If at all possible‚ never keep more than one credit card on your person at a given time. When you are juggling multiple pieces of plastic you are more likely to lose track of them than if you are only responsible for holding onto one card. Organization of your wallet or purse is probably one of the best ways to make sure that you don’t make yourself vulnerable to identity theft as you can better keep track of your cards and your receipts.

In addition‚ not only should you be sure to check your free annual credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus‚ but you should also consider enrolling in a credit monitoring system‚ as this service will act like a second set of eyes and alert you to certain activities taking place in your name that could indicate identity theft and help you catch credit card theft early if it happens to you.