Q: Someone stole my wife’s two credit card account numbers and tried to make fraudulent charges online. Fortunately, Visa stopped both payments. But how could that happen? Will it affect her credit score, and how can we prevent it in the future? —T.L. Durham, N.C.
A: There has been so much in the news recently about credit card information being stolen by hackers at stores such as Walmart, Target and Staples. But credit-card numbers can also be stolen when a card is used at a gas station or an ATM where a thief has placed a fake card reader or “skimmer” over the real one that stores your card data.
A hacker can also break into the payment network—from the point where you swipe your card at a store to when the bank authorizes the transaction—and steal
your data. But fraudulent payments will not affect your wife’s credit score. And there are ways to reduce the chance of having account numbers stolen. The new cards with an EMV chip help to reduce fraud. And if you use a credit card to buy something online, make sure the website address begins with “https://” (the “s” indicates a secured network) as opposed to “http://.” Also shred credit-card statements before throwing them away.
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This article also appeared in the October 2015 issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser .
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