How criminals can steal your credit card information, right from your pocket

The way that criminals can get hold of credit card information is becoming more complex. In many cases, consumers will find out their information was stolen even while their card was still in their wallet. In a guest column for MSN Money, Jennifer Gregory from Card Ratings told the story of having her credit card information stolen and not knowing about it until she received her monthly statement.

What followed was a journey to try and figure out what had happened. She interviewed several industry experts and found there was one of three possible ways her card information had been stolen without her physically losing the card.

The first one is keystroke logging, which is when specific software is installed on a personal computer that secretly records every key that is typed on a keyboard and transfers that information to whomever installed it.

The second is card skimming. This happens when a fake card reader and PIN Pad are placed over an existing one at an ATM, for example. Once placed, the criminal who did so waits and recovers the devices later that day or after a weekend and all of the cards and PINs have now been recorded. Duplicate cards are then created that have that information and are used to make purchases. 

The final, and most likely incident, is a hack of POS software. Gregory interviewed Neal O'Farrell, the founder of the Identity Theft Council. He said that since 2005, over 600 million records have been stolen, and data breaches are the number one reason behind it. 

"Data breaches are the most common way for a hacker to get your credit card number," O'Farrell said. "While some data breaches make national news, others are actually never discovered by the company or the consumers. In data breaches, it has nothing to do with what the credit card user did, but that another organization or business with access to their credit card number did not protect it properly."

Credit card fraud a problem all over the world

The issues of stolen credit card information is clearly a problem and it is not contained just one corner of the globe. As this blog reported last week, a recent Nilson Report says the global credit card fraud increased by 17 percent in 2012. That totals a loss of $11.27 billion.

A recent article from the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the growing number of issues in Australia. According to the numbers, there were just over $60 million in reported losses because of credit card fraud in 2010 in the country. That number was up to over $90 million in 2012.

The article added that consumers need to be aware of this growing problem and do everything they can to keep their information safe.

''Customers should be aware of the practical steps they can take for their personal and business security, including keeping a close eye on all account balances and covering the keypad when entering a PIN number,'' Kirk Kantzipas, the general manager of financial crime at NAB, told the news source.

While individuals need to be aware of what is going on and how to keep their information safe, businesses need to do their part as well. This involves having secure credit card processing software that can keep data protected.

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