Someone Used My Credit Card Online—Can I Track Them? Answers and Safety Tips
According to a 2023 Federal Trade Commission report, credit card fraud was the most frequent type of identity theft in 2022, with over 440,000 reports. This fact is corroborated further by the research indicating that the U.S. consumers lost an alarming $12.6 billion due to credit card thefts in 2022.
While it’s alarming to discover that your credit or debit card has been stolen, you can reduce the consequences of card theft and misuse if you act quickly.
The answer to the question "Someone used my credit card—can I track them?" is yes, but only to an extent. The first step is reporting the incident to the bank. Our guide will help you take adequate measures beyond reporting to limit your financial liability. We’ll discuss:
- What to do if someone stole your credit or debit card number and used it online
- How card thefts are tracked
- How to minimize the chances of online card fraud with virtual cards
Someone Used Your Credit Card To Buy Online—Here’s How the Authorities Track Them
Remote or card-not-present (CNP) fraud occurs when your credit card has been used online without your permission. Unlike in-person (or card-present) fraud, there is usually no witness or security camera footage to track or identify the person using the card, so finding the culprit can be significantly more challenging.
The first thing you must do once you spot a suspicious transaction is contact your bank. They will block the card to prevent further unauthorized charges and issue a replacement card. The procedure is different for fraudulent transactions resulting in the loss of exorbitant amounts of money—these cases are usually handled by bank investigators or law enforcement.
The available methods of tracking CNP fraud require advanced technology and legal clearances. The authorities typically track fraudulent credit card transactions by:
- Checking transaction timestamp and IP address
- Using geolocation tracking
- Investigating the buyer’s data and further account activity
Source: Tima Miroshnichenko
Checking Transaction Timestamp and IP Address
When you alert your credit card company of an unauthorized charge, it may assign a team of investigators to look into the transaction, depending on the scope of activity. The investigators start with analyzing the transaction timestamp and IP address to verify if fraud has actually occurred as claimed. This step is necessary to rule out instances of unintentional or friendly fraud, such as:
- Accidental purchases
- Family member using the card without the cardholder’s knowledge
- Subscription service charging the cardholder after the trial period
Once the investigators are confident that fraud has indeed occurred, they dig deeper into the IP address to uncover the fraudster. One of the most obvious signs of fraud is the customer ordering goods or services from an IP address in a different state or continent. In that case, the investigators use geolocation data to pinpoint the exact location of the criminal.
Using Geolocation Tracking
Credit card companies and banks generally use software to extract geolocation data and leverage it for information like the malicious user’s time zone, internet service provider (ISP), and exact location of the fraudster at the time of the fraudulent purchase. In most cases, this data is shared with law enforcement, who direct the internet service provider (ISP) and other intermediaries to disclose details about the card user.
The success of this step depends on how easy it is to break through the anti-tracking measures used by the thief. Skilled hackers are aware of the channels compromising their identity and take steps to hide their trail, so there’s no guarantee the culprit will be found.
Investigating Buyer’s Data and Further Account Activity
If the location tracking is unsuccessful, the investigators will try to look into other aspects that may hold the information on the card user. For example, if the thief used your card multiple times, their buying pattern can be analyzed by criminal profilers and used to identify them. Other possible alternatives include:
- Tracking a delivery address (if available)
- Looking into the thief’s cellular network usage (only if a phone number can be associated with the purchase)
Unfortunately, despite all the measures taken, credit card fraudsters are rarely caught.
What’s Your Liability for Stolen Credit Cards Used Online? Can You Get Your Money Back?
Since it can be difficult even for investigators to track down a credit card thief, it's important to limit your financial liability as much as possible. Thankfully, U.S. consumers are protected from multiple angles.
Federal laws generally limit the liability of credit card fraud victims to $50. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, the credit cardholder typically:
- May not be held liable for any amount if they report a stolen card before an unauthorized transaction was completed
- May be liable for up to $50 if unauthorized charges were made before reporting
Most card networks require that banks offer zero-liability credit card protection for most consumer cards. This protection implies that any fraudulent charges the cardholder reports or the card issuer detects will be removed from the cardholder’s account, without the cardholder being liable. Most card issuers, regardless of their official policy, won’t require you to pay the $50 you’re technically liable for according to the federal law.
Source: Tima Miroshnichenko
What if Someone Used Your Debit Card—Does Your Liability Change?
According to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), if your bank imposes liability on you, your liability usually depends on how quickly you report the theft. Refer to the following table for details:
How To Protect Yourself From Online Credit Card Theft
Digital transactions have been leading the payment landscape in recent years as a generally secure and convenient way to make payments. However, the flip side to this trend is that skilled hackers and other bad actors now enjoy a larger hunting ground. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, cyber fraud is a trillion-dollar industry, and data breaches are one of the top reasons it keeps growing. If you want to minimize the risk of being a victim of credit or debit card fraud, start masking your payment data with virtual cards.
Start Using Virtual Cards
Virtual cards are designed to conceal your real credit or debit card numbers from thieves and hackers that may hack the business you shop at online. A virtual card is a temporary 16-digit number with its own expiration date and security code that is tied to your real bank account. You can use this virtual card number to complete online and over-the-phone transactions as you would with an actual debit or credit card. If a breach occurs, the attacker will only find your temporary card details, while your real account details remain hidden. Many virtual card providers offer additional security features, such as:
- Locking the card to a specific merchant—The virtual card can only be used at a designated merchant and, if stolen, cannot be used elsewhere. This feature is useful if you have recurring payments or frequently shop on a particular website
- Creating single-use cards—The card closes after a single purchase, rendering it useless to a potential hacker
The virtual card market is expected to reach $1.89 trillion by 2031, growing at a rate of over 20% annually. It’s one of the fastest-growing industries in the world as more and more consumers are using virtual cards to protect their payments.
Several banks provide proprietary virtual cards to help protect their customers, but these services may have limited features and associated fees.
If you want a secure, versatile, and feature-rich virtual card—opt for Privacy, a Better Business Bureau® accredited virtual card provider.
Outsmart Hackers and Thieves—Get a Privacy Virtual Card
Privacy Virtual Cards are randomly generated payment card numbers used for completing online purchases. You can connect your Privacy Cards to a debit card or bank account at most U.S. banks—here’s how:
- Go to the Privacy’s signup page
- Provide your basic details (as per KYC norms)
- Add your bank account or debit card
- Request and create your Privacy Card instantly
Source: ready made
Privacy users have the option to create a Merchant-Locked card that locks to the first merchant where it is used. The feature is specifically modeled to help prevent financial risk in the case of a data breach as the hacker won’t be able to use the card on another website.
With Privacy, you can also create Single-Use cards that close after each transaction. Protect your payments with Privacy Cards—get yours now!
Privacy Cards—Stay in Control With Useful Customization Features
Privacy Cards come with helpful features that protect your online transactions. Check out the benefits below:
Privacy currently offers 12 virtual cards as part of the Personal plan, which is free for domestic transactions. The platform also offers monthly plans with features like cashback and dedicated account management—check out the Privacy plans here!
Security Standards at Privacy
Since Privacy offers a financial service, it has to follow PCI guidelines and security standards to protect users. We store sensitive data on encrypted, single-tenant hardware in private networks and go through rigorous annual audits for data security.
You can trust Privacy to deliver advanced security to your online transactions. Join more than 200,000+ satisfied users relying on Privacy to block hidden fees and charges from compromised cards and unwanted subscriptions—sign up to explore Privacy Cards.