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Merchant-Locked Cards

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Pause/Close Cards

Pause or close your Privacy Cards at any time to block future transaction attempts

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How Can Someone Use My Debit Card Without Having It? The Basics of Debit Card Fraud

Ashley Ferraro, Product
Oct 12, 2023
 Min Read

Given the rising prevalence of payment card fraud, the Nilson Report predicts that resulting losses will exceed $397 billion over the next decade. This alarming trend is compounded by the continuous advancement of technology and new fraud types. 

Today, criminals don’t need your physical card to get hold of your financial information. Their techniques and devices for stealing card data have become so subtle that victims typically remain unaware of the crime until they detect an unauthorized charge.

This article will focus on debit card fraud, answering commonly asked questions like:

  • How can someone use my debit card without having it?
  • What do I do if my debit card has been used fraudulently?
  • How do I protect my debit card information?

How Can Someone Use My Debit Card Without Having It?

A form of fraud that doesn’t require the presence of a physical card is called card-not-present fraud (CNP). If you don’t have proper security measures in place and the criminal obtains your debit card information, they can use it for fraudulent online or over-the-phone transactions. These types of transactions don’t require a PIN or signature, making the criminal’s job easier.

How Can a Criminal Get Hold of My Debit Card Information?

Below, you can read about the most common methods fraudsters use to get hold of the victim’s debit card numbers

Breaking Into Mailboxes

Sometimes, criminals steal bank statements and other documents from the mailbox and use the information to impersonate the victim. They may attempt to change the account data, such as the mailing address, or apply for new cards.

Source: planet_fox


Skimming requires the presence of a plastic card, but only briefly. It occurs when criminals steal card information from unsuspecting victims using skimmers, small devices designed to capture a card’s magnetic stripe or chip data. 

Familiarize yourself with common skimming methods:

Method How It Works
Separate skimming device
If the perpetrator manages to get hold of the victim’s physical card for a second, they can swipe or scan it with a reader to extract the data.
Compromised ATM or PoS terminal
The fraudster may tamper with an existing payment terminal or ATM. They typically do so by hacking into it or inserting a skimming device.
Fake public ATM
In rare cases, the criminal may modify an ATM and place it in a public place. Thinking it’s real, the victim uses it and exposes their card information.
PIN theft The criminals can fetch the victims’ PIN using a secret camera or a keyboard overlay placed on a PoS terminal or an ATM.


Hackers typically look for and exploit vulnerabilities in their targets’ online security. They may guess account login credentials using brute force attacks, figure them out by analyzing the victim’s online profile, or fetch the information through an unsecured Wi-Fi network. Once they’re into one account, the hackers can steal other credentials, such as those of the victim’s online bank account.


One of the most common and sophisticated hacking methods is phishing. Posing as real people or businesses, the fraudsters send out fake emails or messages designed to manipulate the target into:

  • Disclosing personal or financial information
  • Following links containing fake payment or login pages
  • Downloading attachments containing malware

The messages typically convey a sense of fear or urgency, putting pressure on the victim to take immediate action.

Source: B_A

Data Breaches

In the first quarter of 2023, data breaches exposed over six million data records globally, as reported by Statista. Data breaches occur when criminals gain access to confidential data stored by different organizations. Their methods are various:

  • Cyberattacks, such as brute force attacks and ransomware
  • Exploitation of outdated security patches, misconfigured databases, and other liabilities
  • Taking advantage of vulnerabilities in third-party vendors’ and partners’ systems
  • Stealing physical devices containing the data
  • Insider threats, i.e., authorized individuals who misuse their privileges for malicious purposes

The stolen data can then be sold on the dark web, exploited for illicit purchases, or used to create fake cards, among other things.

What Do I Do if My Debit Card Has Been Used Fraudulently?

If you notice any unauthorized charges on your debit card, take the following steps:

  1. View the transaction history—Determine how much money has been deducted from your account to understand the scope of the problem. You should write down the location of the transaction and any other helpful details. It is also important to verify that the transaction didn’t come from a family member or another authorized user.
  2. Get in touch with the bank immediately—Call or visit the bank to let them know about the fraudulent activity. Most of them offer 24/7 customer support.
  3. Cancel the debit card and request a new oneCanceling the card allows you to prevent further transactions.
  4. Stay on the lookout—Keep tracking your account activity. Inspect any messages you may receive, as the fraudster may have accessed your contact information and might attempt to extract more, such as the new card number.

It’s important to notify your card issuer as soon as you notice any suspicious activity. Consumer debit cards are governed by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which entails a specific time frame for dispute resolution. If you report the fraudulent charge within three days, your liability is generally limited to $50. If reported within 60 days, the figure may rise to $500. After that, you may not be able to get a chargeback.

Most banks employ a zero-liability policy, which means they won’t hold users responsible for the fraudulent charges at all. Still, you should reach out to your card issuer to check whether they offer this benefit and if it applies to your case.

Source: Mohammed_Hassan

How Do I Protect My Debit Card Information From Getting Stolen?

Canceling the stolen debit card doesn’t guarantee your safety. Once a hacker gets hold of your card information, they can not only transact with it but also use it to access additional information they can potentially misuse. That’s why a proactive approach goes a long way

To avoid becoming a fraud victim, you should fortify your security measures to the fullest extent by:

  1. Monitoring your bank statements and enabling alerts—Check your bank statements regularly and enable transaction alerts to catch fraudulent activity on time
  2. Activating multi-factor authentication—Allow two-factor or biometric authentication wherever possible. That way, you’ll have to verify your identity before each transaction, reducing the risk of unauthorized use.
  3. Using strong passwords—Set strong and unique passwords for each account to make them more difficult to guess.
  4. Avoiding public Wi-Fi networks—Never perform transactions when connected to a public Wi-Fi network to avoid malware infections and data theft. Public Wi-Fi networks are less secure and can be easily targeted by hackers looking to intercept sensitive information.
  5. Shopping only on trusted websites—Don’t provide your debit card information on sketchy or unknown websites. Look for the padlock symbol on the left of the address bar to confirm that the connection to the merchant’s site is secure.
  6. Buying with virtual cardsUse a virtual card at checkout to mask your real financial information and protect it from unauthorized access. While some banks provide virtual cards to their customers, you may want to consider an independent provider like Privacy, boasting protection, customization, and control features.

Privacy Virtual Cards—An Effective and Convenient Way To Shield Your Financial Data

Source: Onur Binay

Don’t let fraudsters access your most sensitive data. Use Privacy, a virtual card service, to secure your funds and bypass the long and exhausting recovery process. 

A Privacy Virtual Card is a randomly generated, unique 16-digit card number with its own expiration date and security code. It’s linked to your debit card or bank account but masks your real card information during online transactions. In case of a data breach, your card and bank data remain protected, as the hackers can only access your virtual card number.

You can shop with your Privacy Virtual Cards at most vendors that accept U.S. debit or credit card payments.

How To Use and Customize Your Privacy Cards

With Privacy, you have full control of your online transactions. Learn how to make the most of the platform in the table below:

Measure You Can Take
How It Protects You
Create a Single-Use Card
A Single-Use Card can be used only once. It closes minutes after the transaction, becoming useless to potential thieves. It’s ideal for purchases on new or unfamiliar websites.
Generate a Merchant-Locked Card
A Merchant-Locked Card can be used multiple times, but only at a particular vendor. It’s useful for subscriptions and other recurring payments. Even if it ends up in the wrong hands, this card can’t be used anywhere else, enhancing the security of your online purchases. 
Close, pause, and unpause the card
You can close or pause your Privacy Card anytime without affecting your real card and bank account. The feature enables you to prevent hidden or unwarranted subscription charges, as Privacy declines all charges to a paused or closed virtual card.
Set spending limits
Privacy’s adjustable spending limits give you more control of your budget. They allow you to prevent overspending and overcharging by sneaky merchants.

Privacy makes the checkout experience fast and seamless
with a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. The extension autofills virtual card numbers for you at checkout, saving you from switching between browser tabs or memorizing card numbers.

With the Privacy mobile app for iOS and Android, you can monitor your account activity, generate new virtual cards, and shop safely on the go. Enable real-time alerts to get notified when your cards are used or declined.

How Privacy Keeps Your Data Safe

Privacy is a BBB®-accredited business, which means it has a proven track record of ethical operations, reliable services, and dedication to customer satisfaction. It’s also PCI and OWASP-compliant, employing sophisticated security measures to protect user information.

Thanks to Privacy’s 1Password integration, you can store all your credentials and virtual card numbers in one centralized dashboard and manage them with ease.

Sign Up for Privacy and Enjoy Safer Shopping

U.S. residents over 18 years old with a checking account at a U.S. bank or credit union are eligible to request a Privacy Card. The company is bank-agnostic and compatible with most local banks.

Follow these four steps to become a Privacy user:

  1. Register 
  2. Enter the details needed to verify your identity
  3. Link a funding source (your debit card or bank account)
  4. Request a Privacy Virtual Card

With the basic plan, you can request 12 virtual cards a month, plus:

  • Pause and close the cards
  • Set spending limits
  • Access the web extensions and mobile apps

Privacy also offers paid plans, which include features like 1% cashback on eligible purchases (totaling up to $4,500 total), discreet merchants, i.e., the ability to mask transaction details on your bank statements, and priority support.

Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
Sign Up
Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
Sign Up
Privacy virtual cards
Spending Limits

Set a spending limit, and Privacy will block all charges that go over the limit

Merchant-Locked Cards

Lock your Privacy card to one merchant you frequently shop from

Single-Use Cards

Secure your one-time payments to websites whose trust worthiness you're unsure of

Pause/Close Cards

By pausing or closing a card, Privacy will block all future transactions

Get a Privacy Card Now
Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
Sign Up
Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
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