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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

How to Keep Your Credit Cards from Being Hacked

 By Catherine Powell

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season is in full swing.  That means lots of trips to the stores, as well as multiple online purchases.  To you. this time of year is a time of giving.  For hackers, it’s a time to take advantage of unwary shoppers by stealing their credit and debit card info for their own nefarious purposes.  More than 23 million credit cards were compromised in 2019 alone.  If you don’t want to have your credit card abused or your bank account emptied, there are a few things you need to do before you head over to the mall.

How do hackers gain access to your credit and debit cards? – When it comes to accessing credit and debit card data, a hacker needs you to provide them with the number, expiration date, security code and zip code.  In other words, they need the same information you use to make a purchase.  Since you wouldn’t ordinarily give this information out to just anyone, they need to trick you into coughing up the information.  Here are 7 ways they pull off the hack:

1.      The Skimmer – These are devices that slip into the credit card payment slot at ATM machines and gas stations.  While they don’t interfere with your ability to make a transaction, what they do is capture the information you used to do so.  Anytime you use your card to fill up your tank or your wallet, make sure there isn’t a secondary device attached.

2.      Dumpster Diving – While less hi-tech, this technique is nonetheless effective in recovering credit card information from the trash.  That’s why you should always shred sensitive financial information before you toss it out.

3.      Phishing – Cybercriminals use every trick in the book to get you to cough up your credit card info.  They’ll barrage you with bogus ads for nonexistent products and deluge you with email purportedly from trusted providers of goods and services.  Then they wait for you to fall for the clickbait to make a phony purchase.  Instead of falling for these scams, call the provider of goods or services instead of clicking on a link.4.      Clone Sites – Some hackers will create picture perfect copies of well-known retail and e-tail sites in the hope of luring in unsuspecting shoppers.  The only difference is usually one letter in the URL.  Most people fail to notice the slight spelling difference much to their chagrin when their next credit card bill arrives.

5.      Drive-by hacking – One of the easiest ways for hackers to steal your credit and debit card information is by gaining access to any Wi-Fi device that you use to make online transactions.  If you failed to change the default setting on your home Wi-Fi router, you’re vulnerable to being hacked.  If you use public Wi-Fi hotspots, you’re asking for trouble.  It’s far better to use your smartphone to spawn a secure hotspot than it is to use a public hotspot for online access.

6.      Hackers steal your info by hacking other businesses. – Like it or not, no business is immune from hacking.  Even big box retailers and banks have been hacked.  So, what are the odds of smaller retail stores and online businesses with whom you’ve done business with being hacked?  That’s why you need to protect yourself by investing in a service that tracks your purchases and alerts you to any suspicious activity. 

7.      Hackers can now steal the credit card data right out of your pocket. – Due to changes in credit card technology, tech-savvy hackers can steal the data even if you don’t take your card out of your wallet.  Some cards are enabled with near-field communication or RFID that transmits payment information to terminals equipped with proximity readers.  That means that a hacker sitting in the mall food court can sniff the data directly off cards so equipped while enjoying a burger and fries.  The only defense against this kind of hack is to place your credit cards in a wallet that’s specifically designed to block NFC or RFID emissions.

What do hackers do with your credit and debit card information? – Once they have everything they need to make a transaction, hackers can both use and sell the information to turn your credit card into their own personal ATM machine.  Here’s how:

1.      Cyberthieves usually make a small purchase or two on your card to make sure they have everything they need to make much larger ones. 

2.      Some thieves will then use your card to purchase expensive electronics they can resell online, while others will simply sell the information on the dark web to anyone and everyone willing to cough up $5-$100.  This way they’ll avoid the liability of using a stolen card while making much more by reselling your data.

3.      If they hacked your debit card, they may have everything they need to access your ATM or clean out your account.

4.      It’s possible that the thieves will use the information they gleaned to open up new credit card accounts under your name or apply for loans. 

What should you do if you suspect your credit or debit card has been compromised? – Speed is of the essence when it comes to minimizing the damage a hacker can do to you financially.  As soon as you notice anything amiss with your account, you need to do the following:

1.      Call the card issuer or bank to have the card cancelled.

2.      Dispute any fraudulent charges placed on your card.  While this is simple to do with a credit card, if your debit card was used to take money out of your bank account, this will take a lot more time and effort to correct.

3.      Contact the credit reporting agencies to have your credit frozen.  This will stop thieves from applying for additional credit or loans in your name.  While the freeze is in place, you won’t be able to open any new credit accounts, but you will be able to access those accounts you already possess.

4.      Depending on the amount stolen, you could be required to file a police report.  While this will appease the lender, in all likelihood it won’t result in a prosecution unless the thief stole your identity as well, and that’s iffy.  The problem with cybercrime is it can be perpetrated from across the country or around the world.  Even though the problem results in billions in losses, the jurisdictional roadblocks are nearly insurmountable for even entities like the FBI.  That means an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure in Cyberspace.

5.      Consider putting your debit card in a safe deposit box.  While it might take away the convenience of being able to access an ATM, it will keep a thief’s hand out of your cookie jar. 

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. Cyber crime is a real and present danger to all of us. Learn how to protect yourself from the people who are out to rob you blind.

  2. Super article that I will share with my followers. This can help everyone.


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