How Do Thieves Use Stolen Credit Cards?

By David Weedmark - Updated June 16, 2017
Credit cards

When thieves steal a credit card or a credit card number, there are usually three things they might do with it. They could use the card to buy things, use it to get new cards in your name, or sell the card information for cash. Often, a thief, or a series of thieves, may do all three.

Amateur Thieves Vs. Pros

If an amateur thief steals a credit card from someone's wallet, there's usually not too much that person can do with it. He might make a few purchases in a store or online, but once the victim realizes the card is missing, the card is cancelled and the thief's spending spree is over. An amateur thief has a good chance of getting arrested when he presents a stolen card to a store clerk. Professional thieves can do much more with a credit card by stealing its information, usually online, without the victim ever knowing about it. If you see a website you haven't heard of before, offering deals that are too good to be true, or get an email asking for your credit card information, this may be a thief trying to get your credit card information.

Buy and Sell Stuff for Profit

Perhaps the most straightforward way thieves make money from stolen credit cards is to buy things. They can go to a store, or shop for things online using your name. In 2015, a Brooklyn couple was sentenced to prison after making over $1 million in goods, services and cash. A large part of their scheme was using stolen credit cards to buy items like transit passes, gift cards, baby care items, computers and movie tickets. They then sold the purchased goods on the internet using eBay, Craigslist and websites they set up themselves.

Apply for New Credit Cards

With someone's credit card information and other personal details about that person, thieves can apply for other credit cards in that person's name. Because the theft victim never sees the statements, she may never know about this until she looks at her credit report, or the credit card companies track her down to ask when she will be paying them back.

Sell Credit Card Information

Credit card details are a hot commodity for thieves around the world, who buy and sell them, often in bulk. There may not be much money in selling the details of a single credit card, but when someone hacks a website with thousands of credit cards in its database, there is big money to be made. Once a credit card goes up for sale online, the whole process starts over again, with new thieves creating fraudulent cards, or using them to make online purchases or applying for brand new cards in the victim's name.

About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has worked as a consultant for many small businesses and non-governmental organizations, including several law firms and bar associations. David has also has written hundreds of articles on legal matters and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications.

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