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I just had my credit card canceled because of fraud. This is actually a perfectly normal occurrence for me, which is the impetus behind this question. The card in question was only about 1.5 years old, because that is how long it has been since my previous card details were stolen. Over the past decade I would say that I have had my credit card canceled for fraud on average once every 2 years. I think there was once I made it to 3 years, but also at least once where I only made it a year before it happened again.
To be clear it isn't being physically stolen and I've never once lost my card. I obviously have no idea how it happens every time (although I'm certainly aware that there are plenty of ways for your card data to be stolen without you knowing). I generally consider myself someone who practices reasonable credit card security. I don't use my card at gas pumps (gas pump skimmers were common in my area for a while), I only use it with major e-commerce vendors online, and I usually use cash at restaurants rather than handing someone my card.
Most people seem surprised that my details get stolen so often, which makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong even still. However, I don't actually know if that is the case. Fortunately it isn't more than a nuisance for me when it happens. I've never had to pay for any of the fraud and the bank always sends me a new card with a minimal of hassle. It just "costs" me the inconvenience of being card-less for a week or two and then having to update my credit card details everywhere. Still if there were additional steps I could take to minimize the chance of fraud I would take them to try to stop this from happening so often. So, I realize this is a bit broad, but:
- Is having my card details stolen every 2 years a sign that I am unlucky, doing something wrong, or is it perfectly normal?
- Are there any other steps I can take to minimize the chances of this happening in another 1-2 years?
A Second card
So far I've had lots of comments about having a second card. That's not a crazy idea, and hasn't really occurred to me. It can certainly help when I'm down a card, although it also has its own disadvantages (one more thing to check every week, one more place to make payments, etc...). Still, while strategies to minimize the inconvenience when my card gets stolen are helpful, I'd rather come up with ways to minimize the chances of my card getting stolen in the first place.
As an example of the actual fraud, I found out my card was canceled when it was declined at a grocery store. I immediately went home and checked my transactions online. I saw a number of smaller transactions that were definitely fraud. Two were $0.30 transactions from a retailer who's name was literally a random string ~20 characters long and based out of Indiana (I'm in Florida). Then there were two ~$10 charges claiming to be from a magazine which I had never heard of. Those transactions were allowed by my card (although the transactions will likely be canceled before any money exchanges hands, and I certainly won't have to pay for them).
When I called Visa they asked about further charges that I didn't see on my bank statement because they had been declined. That included my attempt to get groceries, ~$500 at a travel center in Zurich, and a large number of smaller transactions that I can't remember. All of this makes me suspect that regardless of how my credit card was obtained, it found its way into the larger credit card fraud world where criminals try to turn stolen cards into actual cash. The small transactions followed by larger ones matches my own expectations in this area from my personal and professional experience - small transactions are first performed to verify that the credit card details are still valid while trying to stay under the radar, and then larger transactions are made for products that can be converted to cash (unfortunately I have no idea what was being "purchased" at the travel center in Zurich).