Until a few years ago my credit card number had only been stolen once, about 15 years ago. But in the last two years it has been stolen four times. The first recent time was a few years ago in Hawaii, and the most recent was the Saturday before MLK Day (yay bank holidays.) I get a call from Visa about a fraudulent transaction and my card gets shut down immediately. I have to rely on only what is in my pocket until I can get to my bank or credit union, (very hard to do on vacation or on a weekend) and then rely on cash obtained only by visiting the bank (or, if I'm lucky, checks, if someone still accepts those) until a new card and PIN are mailed to me. It seems that increasingly, we are becoming more and more dependent on on these things that are apparently absurdly vulnerable, crippling us harder and more frequently when they fail.

The worst part is, I am fairly tech savvy, and I know how to avoid risks online. But outside of not shopping on sketchy websites or over unsecured connections, or wrapping my card in tin foil when I'm at the airport, I don't have a clue how to protect my credit/debit cards information, and the banks can't tell me anything. As far as I am aware, I am doing everything right! It's an increasingly frustrating problem. And I fear that as this problem increases in scope, the credit card companies will be less forgiving of losses but not more helpful with explaining how to be safe. I am more and more looking forward to ApplePay becoming more of a thing in the hopes that it replaces this godawful system with something safer and more reliable. But until I can throw away my Visa card, what can I do to protect myself that I'm not already doing?

  • 1
    Four times in two months is a lot. Have you every had your identity stolen? Have you checked your credit report recently? Are all cards with the same bank? Same network? Had you shopped at businesses that have had card info released? What are the fraudulent transactions? In the same area?
    – jmabs
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 19:26
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    Four times in two years. It's still a lot compared to once in the 15 years prior. I have not had my identity stolen to my knowledge. I have identity theft protection coverage through ID Experts who, funny enough, I also work for, (if I may plug them/us, though they don't offer any protection against financial fraud,) and I pulled all my credit reports a few months ago and found no evidence of identity theft.
    – J Doe
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 18:03
  • What about my other questions?
    – jmabs
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 18:47
  • There's a character limit. My credit union issued everyone new cards after the Target breach, I don't know who had and lost my info after that. I only have one credit/debit card. The transaction types and locations are different. The only information I was given in the most recent instance is there were five suspect transactions and one was a money order for ~$215, though I don't understand how providing detail would help, as my card is cancelled and a new card issued each time one is detected.
    – J Doe
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 19:01
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    Do you shop online? If using a PC, do you have virus protection and update/run it regularly? You may find that the common denominator is the places you shop, whether brick and mortar or online. Also, credit check?
    – jmabs
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:37

5 Answers 5


Protection: More than one card. Don't just vary the bank, also pick different types (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover) This avoids the situation where the loss of a single card for a few days strands you.

In the last few years my card replacements have been becasue of the large hacking incidents. I have not had any fraudulent transactions, but have had multiple cards replaced.

Online you can use temporary numbers.

Also make all the accounts where you store a credit card number (iTunes, Amazon, EZPass, the metro) pull from a card that is only used for these auto-loading transactions. If there is a problem it is insulated from the rest of your finances, and any unwanted transactions are easy to spot. Plus you can see a handy list of places that have to be updated when a card does expire/change.


In order to "protect" yourself you need to understand how these hackers/thieves get your CC info in the first place. You say you are tech-savvy yet you still are a victim. Let's get you a bit more savvy..

There are several ways hackers/thieves can get your CC info and many variations in between but the most common are:

  1. Online - Hacking an online shopping database, (not much you can do here but choose wisely where you shop at; look for sites that have encryption protection) key-logging your keystrokes through malicious software (an AV is useful but since you are tech-savvy, common sense is all you need), sniffing packets through public WIFI or your own WIFI. (Try not to shop online when using a public wifi and have a strong WIFI password at home). Also keep in mind that they can steal other personal information that can grant them access to your CC without even having your CC info.
  2. Card Skimming - This when thieves, put "skimmers" at ATMs, Gas Stations, and etc. These devices look innocent but they are designed to steal your card information because they are essentially card readers camouflaged to look like the ATM or Gas Station's card reader. Although some of them are almost indistinguishable, you can tell if you look carefully. I always check out the readers on every card reader at sketchy ATMs or Gas Stations. http://laurenbernat.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/picture-3.png

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  3. Credit Card RFID readers - Well you said you use foil at airports to cover your CCs, however that may not be good enough. Some RFID readers can penetrate the thin layer of foil. It would be best for you to actually buy a CC shield or cover that is designed to block off RFID signals.

  4. Physical Theft - This is common sense but I thought I add it. They can also steal from your mailbox, so keep that in mind.

I honestly believe that there is no sure way to prevent this type of thing from happening but being smart can reduce your chances significantly.


Have different cards from different banks. For me, I have the Chase Freedom, Discover it card, and a USAA Mastercard. I've never had any issues with any of them being stolen, but you should diversify your current credit cards at the least.

Always keep them in the same place in your wallet, and always put your wallet in the same place. For me, I always leave the cards in the same slip in my wallet, and my wallet is always either in my pocket or in my draw next to my bed. It never gets lost.

Lastly, only use reputable websites. Look for trusted verification emblems on payment sites, and never use a debit card online, since the money gets withdrawn immediately.

That should be it. Use cards that can benefit you getting the most points and just keep them in the same place and you shouldn't run into any more issues.

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    I believe the OP is saying that his CC number was stolen not the card itself. Identity Theft can happen without the card itself..
    – NuWin
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 17:48
  • I leave one (or more) of my cards secured at home (safe/lockbox), and I carried two credit cards and a debit card with me on my last vacation (leaving the debit card for my other bank and a credit card at home). Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 15:47

Although you are tech savvy and know how to avoid online risks online, keep these few things in mind.

Use a reliable updated anti-virus and anti-malware software program in your laptop and mobile phone.Using malware is increasingly used to steal financial information. There are several ways that malware can infiltrate a computer.Once on the computer, it can hijack banking and financial information.

Be cautious with unsecured Wi-Fi connections. We all have multiple devices so that we can access the internet no matter where we are. However, it is not safe to use an unsecured network to visit some sites, especially sites that provide financial services.

Be careful what you share over social media websites. A consumer who does not know any better may put up too much personal information on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. By setting your privacy settings at the highest possible level and not sharing identifying information like birth dates or your mother’s maiden name you can protect yourself.

Sign up with an identity theft protection company. There are companies like Credit Sesame that offer free ID protection and a free credit score; and there are companies like LifeLock that provides protection for a fee. While these do not guarantee you will never get your ID stolen, they do offer a secure level of protection and reduce the chances that you will fall victim.

You also need to be aware of these few tricks that hackers use to stole your identity. http://www.elitepersonalfinance.com/6-crazy-but-obvious-ways-yours-identity-can-get-stolen


Here's the checklist provided by a friend who is extremely careful(paranoid) of his financial information to help protect credit cards from being stolen.

  • Be sure not to leave your credit card out in the open. The same goes for putting up pictures of your credit card on your social media profiles.
  • Keep an eye open for skimmers. Whenever you decide to use your card, be sure to see if there are no extra devices attached to the swipe mechanism or an ATM as suggested above.
  • Review your bank accounts on a regular basis. By doing so, you will be able to spot any fraudulent activity. Also, consider signing up for credit-monitoring services.
  • Consider using a separate card for all your online purchases. Keep your passwords secret. Also, make them as complex as possible. All of this can be done easily with the help of a password manager.
  • Reset passwords for every online account regularly. Though that could be an annoying procedure, this is where a password manager will help you avoid all the hassle.
  • Protect your computer with a professional antimalware tool. That should be self-evident; unfortunately, quite a few users overlook the benefits of having a secure operating system.
  • Be wary of phishing attacks. Always check the email address and its content for its legitimacy; otherwise, you could end up handing over all your credit card information to cyber crooks without realizing it.

If your online bank accounts were breached, reset passwords and call your bank immediately.

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