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There is a relatively new form of credit card fraud and identity theft which does not require a victim's actual plastic credit card, just the random customer identification number it contains. The scam known as credit card shaving has grown in popularity in recent years because of its low tech methodology and no need for social engineering or other high-risk identity theft tactics. The criminal doesn't even have to make any personal contact at all with the victim in order to pull off a credit card shaving scam.
The scheme begins with the scammer testing out a random series of 16 numbers which could conceivably match an existing credit card account. This step may be a little time-consuming, but once a match is found, the identity thief now has the legitimate credit card account number of an unwitting victim. No other personal identification, such as a PIN number or expiration date, is strictly necessary, just the 16 numbers of an active account.
The next step in a credit card shaving scam involves a trip to a local grocery or department store where plastic gift cards are sold. The scammer is not necessarily interested in using the gift cards themselves, but he or she needs the raised plastic numbers they contain. Using a razor blade or utility knife, the scammer literally shaves off these numbers for future use.
Many credit card account numbers use the same initial 12 numbers as bank identifiers or other general verification codes. It is the last four numbers which are unique to each credit card holder. The scammer uses either an old credit card or a bank gift card as a base for the fraud. The last four numbers are carefully shaved off and replaced with the stolen account's last four digits constructed from the shaved gift cards. The numbers are literally superglued to the card to appear authentic.
In a credit card shaving scheme, the actual plastic card is only a diversion. The scammer intentionally damages the card's magnetic stripe, which renders the card unreadable electronically. The vendor must manually enter the account information into the processor, which means the victim's authentic credit card numbers will be used in the transaction. The scammer enjoys the benefits of the purchases, while the victim is unknowingly charged for all of them.
Credit card shaving is a particularly difficult identity theft scam to prevent. The victim cannot prevent a savvy or patient thief from generating a matching credit card account number. The vendor may not notice the altered card information if the criminal is especially skilled with a razor blade and superglue. By the time the scam is discovered, usually by the victim receiving a laundry list of unauthorized charges, the identity theft could have moved onto a new random account.
The identity thieves who have been arrested for credit card shaving have generally made a revealing mistake due to the nature of their purchases or have been thwarted by vendors who recognized an illegally altered credit card and reported the transaction to authorities.
so, how do we protect ourselves?