Nine Obvious Signs Your Credit Card Info is Out of Your Control

by Bill on December 26, 2013

credit cards and interest chargesWithin a few days of this post being written, Target announced it had been the target of hackers who lifted information of 40 million credit card users from Target’s POS systems. How do you know if you become a victim of such an attack?

Extraordinary Use Patterns May Signal Credit Card Theft

One such obvious signal to banks is when a seldom used credit card becomes suddenly very active. This tells the bank that either you are short on cash, or the card is compromised. Either way, the bank will flag the card.

If multiple purchases appear within minutes at the same store or website, this can be a sign that your credit card information has been stolen. Thieves often go after multiple items such as gift cards, phone cards, pre-paid credit cards, or items they can quickly resell elsewhere.  

Cash Flow Patterns Can be a Red Flag for Credit Card Theft

People who have credit card information often use a single small purchase, such as a pre-paid cell phone for example, to test the information; then they go after the larger purchases once the card is proven valid.

When your card information is confirmed by the thief, they go after larger prizes. A sign that your credit card information was stolen could be the purchase of something expensive such as jewelry, electronics or other high ticket items you would not normally think of. If the thief isn’t using the items personally, they’re probably looking to sell it for a quick buck.

If you suddenly find your card limit is maxed out, especially after paying the monthly bill, then most likely your credit card information has been stolen. Thieves also like to max out cards figuring they might as well grab all the cash they can while its there.

If you are constantly finding your daily spending limits being maxed out you may also want to check on the purchases. If a thief has a copy of your card they can hit ATM machines and take cash withdraws daily up to a certain limit even if there is money in the account.

The Tale of the Traveling Credit Card Number

If you live in say, the Midwest, and your card suddenly starts making purchases at stores in New Jersey, you might have a problem with stolen credit card information. Even if you live in Philadelphia and you start finding purchases in Pittsburgh, but never venture out in that direction, I would start checking the charges.   

Unless you travel a lot, which some people do still, you want to keep track of the traveling patterns of your credit card number. Stolen credit cards tend to travel. They also tend to make a series of purchases or charges in quick succession as they go; burning up the cash until it runs out.

Then there are those stolen credit cards that like to go International and take vacations in Europe or somewhere. If you suddenly find out that you went on a Carnival cruise, but have no clue about it, your credit card information has been stolen most likely. The same goes for sudden airline tickets showing up. If you don’t fly, you’ve got problems. 

So there are nine ways to tell if your credit card information has been stolen. As the week goes on I’ll be writing on how to alert financial institutions and how to prevent potential mishaps from happening.

Anyone else have something they want to add that might help?

William Swan, writer

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Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter December 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I had my credit card information stolen one time, but the person wasn’t able to make any purchases on it before they found it out because they also stole a whole slew of other people’s information which they used. It was a huge hassle to get a new card, but at least nothing was spent on it!
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Bill December 27, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Wow, consider yourself lucky then. I’ll bet you’re a lot more careful looking over the monthly statements these days.

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