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Most Common Purchases with Stolen Credit Card Information

animated man stealing a credit card while being chased

Seeing unauthorized charges on your bank statement or app can cause quite a scare. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Credit card fraud is an unfortunately common digital fraud scheme. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be on guard. According to our latest US Consumer Pulse study, 39% of consumers said they’ve been targeted by digital fraud schemes related to COVID-19, with almost one-third of those attempts being in relation to stolen credit cards or fraudulent charges.

How does your credit card information end up in a fraudster’s hands?

Fraudsters can get your credit card information in a number of ways. With so many of us shopping for products and services online, fraudsters have channeled their efforts there as well. Hackers may be able to get your information from a data breach at a company you do business with. Phishing is another route. Fraudsters may try to spoof a website, making you think you’re interacting with a trusted business, and trick you into giving away your credit card information.

What are common uses of stolen credit card information?

So what do fraudsters do with stolen credit card information? It’s valuable data, so many sell it to someone else. If they do use it for themselves, they may buy anything from physical, luxury items and electronics, to online goods like video game credits and business services.

Gift cards are a popular choice. They’re mostly anonymous, typically not requiring a name or other personal information to redeem, and can be used similar to cash in stores and online. Fraudsters may use the gift cards to buy goods or try to flip the card and sell it online at a discount.

A cell phone subscription is another common purchase with stolen credit card information. According to TransUnion’s March analysis of online fraud trends, credit card fraud was the top type of digital fraud for the telecommunications industry globally from March 11, 2020 to March 10, 2021. The same analysis found that credit card fraud was the top online scam worldwide in the travel and leisure industry during that period, as well.

How to prevent, spot and recover from credit card fraud

The best way to protect yourself? Be careful when sharing your credit card information online. Trust your gut when you receive an unsolicited email or alert. Even if it may seem official, fraudsters can use creative tactics when trying to get you to divulge personal information.

Shopping and sharing personal information on unprotected, public Wi-Fi could also put your credit card data at risk. Only use public Wi-Fi for general browsing. Do sensitive transactions, like logging into your bank’s website or online shopping, at home on your secured network.

Also be sure to regularly monitor your bank statements and apps. Scan through your transactions, especially those labeled “online” or “Card Not Present.” Card Not Present transactions occur when the cardholder does not physically swipe the card. It’s extra important to review these because it’s a common tactic for scammers committing credit card fraud.

If you suspect a charge is fraudulent, contact your bank immediately. They’ll provide guidance on next steps, which will likely include closing the card and issuing you a new one.

Remember, fraudsters don’t just limit their schemes to using your credit cards to make purchases. If they have your credit card information, they may also have additional identifying data. And that data could be used to open up new credit accounts in your name. This is otherwise known as identity theft. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, there are specific steps to take to take control and get on the path to recovery.

It’s important to take steps to manage and protect your data identity. If you haven’t done so, consider a freezing your credit. A credit freeze helps prevents new accounts being opened in your name. Credit freezes are free, can be placed online and are easily temporarily lifted when you need to shop for new credit.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from popular online fraud schemes, check out our blog on spotting and avoiding phishing scams.

Disclaimer: The information posted to this blog was accurate at the time it was initially published. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. The information contained in the TransUnion blog is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. You should consult your own attorney or financial adviser regarding your particular situation. For complete details of any product mentioned, visit This site is governed by the TransUnion Interactive privacy policy located here.

What You Need to Know:

The credit scores provided are based on the VantageScore® 3.0 model.  Lenders use a variety of credit scores and are likely to use a credit score different from VantageScore® 3.0 to assess your creditworthiness.

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