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Ever wonder what a credit card thief gets for his troubles? The answer is $3.50.
A European hacker nicknamed Poxxie hacked into the computer network of a US company and stole 1,400 credit card numbers. He then sold them for $3.50 on his own website.
Poxxie sold the numbers to buyers who now trust the quality of his products – AKA stolen card numbers. Ironically, he stated, “The main thing in any business is honesty.” I don’t know about you, but stealing credit card numbers doesn’t seem honest to me!
Sadly, this isn’t the only such case out there – not by a long shot. Other hackers perform similar activities on a routine basis. Credit card theft alone has become a $100 plus billion dollar per year industry. Let’s take a look at some of the stats in the high-stakes business of credit card theft.
Amount of Card Numbers Stolen Annually
It is estimated that thieves steal 8.4 million credit card numbers in the US each year. Many do so on Amazon.com.
Other sites, like Poxxie’s, allow customers to shop by card type, credit limit, bank and zip code. Think of them as illegal versions of eBay.
Credit card numbers are also shared via chat rooms and forums. Basically, once your credit card number is stolen, it is up for grabs.
Value of Stolen Credit Card Numbers
It is estimated that $114 billion worth of card data is stolen each year. That’s equivalent to nearly one percent of US GDP. And it is far more than some other well-known crimes haul in.
The global cocaine market brings in $85 billion annually and the total amount of money stolen in US bank robberies in 2010 was $43 million – over 2,650 times less than credit card thieves stole.
How to Protect Your Credit Card Numbers
The Internet is like the Wild West.
There is a very slim chance of catching credit card thieves on there. Basically, it is nearly lawless, as many hackers reside in safe-haven countries in Eastern Europe. Thus, it is up to you and the financial institutions that you do business with to protect your credit card numbers.
Your credit card issuer likely takes precautions to protect your account. That’s why many such companies require you to provide personal information, use passwords and so on to access your account. Additionally, they may monitor accounts for identity theft and take other precautionary measures.
Antivirus and antispyware programs are good to install on your computer, as well. However, as the past few years have seen rapid advancements in hacker technology, such measures do not always work well.
Obviously, it is not a good idea to share your credit card information with people you don’t know. Never post it in chat rooms, forums or any other online medium.
It is a good idea to shred any credit card statements before recycling or disposing of them, as well. An identity thief could easily scoop them up and steal your credit card numbers if you don’t.
Another good idea is to only share your credit card information through secure websites. That new watch may be cheaper on an unfamiliar site, but you’ll be safer by shopping through a well-known retailer.
Similarly, never share your credit card information via email. Your financial institution will not email you for such information and you should only share it on requests that you initiate via their secure website or telephone.
Basically, it boils down to using common sense. If you are the slightest bit suspicious of giving out your credit card information, it’s better to be safe than sorry.