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Your Credit Card: What's in it for Thieves

Online security breaches where retailers are hacked and customers’ credit card information is stolen are becoming a regular part of the news cycle.

Cybercriminals can sell the data online to other criminals, who can then use the information to open bogus accounts in the names of legitimate customers, run up charges on the stolen credit cards and commit other acts of fraud.

The going rate for a U.S. credit card number and a software-generated card verification number is worth $5 to $8, according to a report by Intel Security called “The Hidden Data Economy.” If a bank ID number or date of birth is included, the black market price rises to $15.

Add in other details, such as a cardholder’s full name, address, mother’s maiden name and Social Security number, among other things — called Fullzinfo — and it can sell for $30.

For information stolen from an ATM card, the report says that U.S. cards with PIN numbers sell for $110 each. Some thieves make duplicate cards that they say can be used at ATMs worldwide.

Hackers often sell such data in batches of hundreds of thousands, making them extremely valuable.

Chip-based credit cards, also called EMV cards, can also be hacked, according to a CNN story.

Data breaches affect nearly 18 million Americans, or 7 percent of the adult population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It found that 7 percent of adults in 2014 were victims of at least one incident of identity theft. The misuse of an existing account was the most common type of theft.

Consumers don’t have to rely only on merchants to protect their credit cards from being hacked. Here are some preventative steps you can take on your own:

  • Monitor your credit card by signing up for fraud alerts from your credit card company or a credit monitoring site.
  • Check your credit report every four months for free by requesting one from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
  • Change passwords and PINs often on financial accounts, using unique combinations.
  • Keep your Social Security and other identifying information private and don’t give it out to anyone who asks for it.
  • Use encryption software on your computer.
  • Shred documents with personal information.
  • Along with reporting identity theft to your credit card company or bank, report it to police.

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