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Can leaked credit cards be disastrous?

You don’t want to accidentally lose your hard-earned cash, but have you done everything you can to avoid it? Each year, the financial industry leaks more and more credit card numbers that hackers sell on the dark web. If you don’t want your credit card information to end up in the wrong hands, continue reading.

Emily Green

Emily Green

Oct 10, 2019 · 5 min read

Can leaked credit cards be disastrous?

Leaked credit cards: What are the risks?

Every hacker wants to get their hands on hacked credit card numbers. Sure stealing your logins and passwords are useful, but having your financial information is much more valuable. They can sell your details on the black market, drain your lifelong savings, open new bank accounts, take out loans under your name, and steal your identity. This can forever ruin your credit score, making it hard to bounce back from credit card fraud.

Think it won’t happen to you? Let’s have a look at the facts:

  • 25% of all malware attacks in 2018 targeted financial industries, meaning your bank or any other company handling your finances might be next. Unfortunately, you have no way of protecting your money from such attacks as it all boils down to your bank’s cybersecurity measures, not yours. Financial organizations in developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia are targeted more often than those of other regions.
  • The amount of leaked credit card numbers on the dark web doubled in 2018. How? As companies fortify their defences, hackers increase their technical knowledge and creativity. Some find new ways to hack into databases while others perfect their social engineering techniques to trick you or your bank into giving away your information.
  • The number of people affected in data breaches grows every year. Your details can be leaked by any company that stores your credit card details. Just imagine how many websites you’ve ever used to pay your bills or shop online, even if you only did it once and forgot about it. All of them could store your personal and financial information in some form. Unfortunately, some aren’t keeping it safe. Over a billion people’s data was compromised in 2018 and it’s only the tip of the iceberg!

How to protect your identity and credit card details

Keeping your identity and money safe is harder than ever, but it’s not impossible. All you need to do is be vigilant and take some precautionary measures:

1. Use alternative payment methods

If you can, avoid using your card. Pay by cash or, if you’re shopping online, use a prepaid or a virtual card. Such cards carry less security risks. If leaked they can’t be used to steal your identity. They don’t hold a credit score, they don’t give access to your lifelong savings and it’s much easier to freeze them, so they are your best bet for travelling and one-off purchases. We’ve got plenty more safe online shopping tips here.

2. Learn to recognize suspicious situations

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to understand your enemy. Find out more about the most common hacking methods and what phishing emails look like. But also don’t forget to apply similar rules offline. Look for suspicious behavior or situations that don’t seem right. For example, an ATM with unusual card slot might have a card skimmer attached to it. Stay vigilant!

3. Practice good online behaviour

Hackers can use your small mistakes to their advantage, so it’s important to practice good online behaviour. Is your software and antivirus up to date? How strong are your passwords and where do you keep them? Do you save your credit card details on your accounts? Do you ever handle finances while on public Wi-Fi? How much personal information do you publish on social media? All of these are major risk factors!

4. Do your research

If you’ve just found a tempting deal on running shoes, don’t rush to make a purchase. Criminals could have set up a fake website and empty your bank account in a snap. Always do thorough research and check the reputation of the seller. If something seems fishy, run away as fast as you can.

 5. Watch your bank statements

If you are one of those people who don’t check their bank statements, it’s time to start doing so! It’s important because most hackers will test your card before hacking you or purchasing your details on the dark web. They will send a small charge (a dollar or even a few pennies) to see whether the account is active. Only then will they drain your account. Most people don’t pay attention to small charges and banks don’t pick up on them either.

Also, go paperless. Bank statements sent to your home address carry a lot of valuable personal information about you. These can easily be snatched from your post box, so just use an online banking app instead. Some banks and prepaid cards will send you notifications every time you complete a transaction so it’s easy to spot when something is not right.

6. Can your bank help you?

Talk to your bank and credit bureau about extra security measures and notifications they offer. Some credit bureaus can send text alerts if they notice that your credit card details or social security number are being sold on the dark web (however, only share your financial information with credit bureaus you and your bank trust). While some banks monitor credit reports to see whether anyone has used your personal details to open new accounts or tried to take out loans.

If you notice any fraudulent activity, question it. You can also contact major credit bureaus and notify them. They will then check your records and provide you with a credit report.

 7. Don’t do any financial operations on public computers or Wi-Fi

If you want to check your bank statements or make online purchases, never do so on public computers or Wi-Fi. These types of operations should only be performed when you’re connected to a trusted network on your personal device. While unsuspecting victims might think they’ve taken all the necessary credit card safety measures on public Wi-Fi, their internet traffic could be intercepted and credit card number stolen.

 8. Don’t save your credit card details online

When you buy something online, don’t save your credit card details for later, as it’s a big security risk. Your retailer or its cloud provider could be hacked and your credit card details might end up on the dark web.

 9. Always use a PIN on your card

Many people nowadays choose to use their bank card without a PIN for small purchases. It definitely saves time, but if somebody stole your card, they could use it without any effort.

10. Use a Virtual Private Network

Always use a VPN, especially when handling sensitive financial information, shopping online, using mobile banking apps, or connecting to public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your traffic so hackers and snoopers can’t see your financial information or what you do online.

What to do if your credit card details were leaked online

Dos

  1. Contact your bank immediately and ask them to block your card so criminals can't use it. Time is not on your side — don’t wait until you come back home or for your meeting to be over.
  2. Check your credit card balance and look for any suspicious purchases or money transfers. Inform your bank about all of them so you could get your money back later.
  3. Change the passwords on all the accounts related to your stolen credit card.
  4. Order a new bank card, remember your PIN, and destroy the paper where it was written to enhance your credit card safety.

Don’ts

  1. If you have discovered that your credit card number was exposed months ago, don’t ignore this and check the steps mentioned above. Sometimes, your sensitive details can sit on the dark web for a long time until somebody tries using them. There’s no expiration date for a leak.
  2. Transferring money to other accounts until everything calms down is also not an option. Your stolen credit card can be charged for purchases you haven’t made even if your account is empty.

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