How likely is it to be victim of credit card fraud on a credit card that has never been used? Assume that the credit card was issued by a financial institution bank in the United States.

(Link to personal finance: does having more unused credit cards expose the user to significantly more credit card fraud?)

3 Answers 3


There are several ways that a credit card can be compromised:

  • At the point of sale. A concealed skimmer is used.
  • The cashier/waitstaff is a participant in getting the card data.
  • The billing software at a vendor doesn't protect the data.
  • The surface mail is intercepted and it contains either the card or enough data to be able to fake having the card
  • The bank database is compromised
  • Social engineering to get the cardholder to provide too much information.
  • Theft of card or loss of card.
  • A mistake.

If you never use the card the first three items will never happen. The others in the list don't matter how often it is used. What can happen with a card that is never used is that you can forget to check to make sure that it wasn't used. Therefore a fraudulent transaction could occur, and you might not notice for months. Which could also hit you with interest and penalties.

If enough years go by the card company might just close the account.


Extremely unlikely. Use is what puts your account information at risk. The paperwork that comes with your new card will not have the whole number. Intercepting a new card in delivery is probably the only reasonable threat vector for a card that lives in your sock drawer.


More likely than you think. The first four numbers are the same for 1000's of cards from the issuer. Then there is something called the luhn 10 test. Which is a way for programmers like me to validate that the credit card has even a shot at being accurate without going to the server. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luhn_algorithm. So criminals unfortunately now have the first four numbers and an algorithm to try other possible numbers. then by brute force they could guess your number. Anyone that says its unlikely is fooling themselves. That being said I would never close a credit card. Its too big a hit on your credit score and the bank is responsible for the charges thanks to consumer protection laws passed 50 years ago.

  • 5
    The first 6 numbers are the bank identifier (including the first digit for interchange ID). The remaining 9 (10 including the checksum number) are your account number. Some banks use common prefixes in the account numbers as well. As an example my chase visa cards all have the same first 8 digits. No one is blindly brute forcing cc numbers in 2019.
    – quid
    Jan 5, 2019 at 20:58

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