Can a Hacker Use My Credit Card Without Having It?

Cybercriminals use several methods to hack and steal your credit/debit card information even without physically having the card. Cybersecurity has never been more crucial given the unprecedented growth and adoption of e-commerce and digital transactions. Hackers try a lot of means to invade our privacy, but one sweet spot they can’t ignore is credit card hacking. 

Stolen credit cards can impart your identity, as well as your finances. Keeping them protected all the time is a key habit in the digital world. This article focuses on how hackers can steal your credit or debit card details. Keep reading!

How Are Credit Card Numbers Validated?

The best way to examine this is a scenario like this. Say, for example, you receive an email from your bank asking you to update some of your details by clicking a link. Part of the information it asks you to update includes entering your credit card details. You find it a bit fishy but go ahead to click the link.

You’re redirected to a site that looks legitimate. To test the site’s authenticity, you enter a formulated credit card number that resembles yours. The site tells you the details provided is invalid. This makes you feel safe, and you go ahead to provide the real numbers. Congratulations, you just fell victim to a credit card scam.

The question now ravaging your mind is, “How did this lookalike site manage to validate my credit card number? The answer lies in their use of an algorithm called the Luhn algorithm. It is also known as Mod 10.

Designed by a German computer scientist, Peter Luhn, in 1954, this algorithm can validate a set of numbers. The model was so effective that it became an adopted algorithm for generating credit card numbers. It consists of calculations that eventually need to accrue a multiple of 10. That’s why it was dubbed Mod 10.

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Sadly, the algorithm fell into the wrong hands. Nowadays, cybercrooks use it to develop more advanced kinds of attacks. Luhn’s algorithm, however, can only be used to check the correctness of credit card numbers. Other important details in a card include the card holder’s name, security code and expiration date.

How Can Hackers Steal Credit Card Information?

Cybercriminals can steal your credit and debit card details using both online and offline strategies:


A popular offline method for stealing credit card details is skimming. What makes it dangerous is that it can lead to identity theft. Card readers can meddle with added skimming devices at gas station pumps or ATM’s. It works this way; these malicious readers collect and forward payment information to criminals. In turn, these criminals clone the cards and use them for whatever purpose they like.

These skimmers can be Bluetooth based as well, enabling the attacker to be in close proximity to the target. The attacker can then capture the card data remotely.

Another form of skimming is called RFID skimming. It uses radio frequency identification technology to wirelessly hijack RFID chip-based credit and debit and ID details. 

This information is obtained directly from cards or tablets. The technology uses near-field transmission-enabled devices to record unencrypted data from the card. Skimming techniques don’t end here. 

Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder surfing does not require specialized technology to execute. It is a physical technique enabling the attacker to peer over the victim’s shoulder while they execute a sensitive task. These can include: entering a PIN into the phone or ATM, entering a password into an account, or, viewing proprietary company data on their laptop in a coffee shop.. They can do this from close range or far distance using binoculars. 

Public Wi-Fi 

Entering sensitive information into a website or application using unsecured public Wi-Fi puts you at great risk. While Wi-Fi access points in places like hotels or airports may seem convenient, you should take precautions while using them. Also, cases where free public Wi-Fi pops on your phone could be simply a nearby hacker attempting to steal from you.

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The reason this public Wi-Fi can be dangerous is because attackers like to use public internet because there are a lot of potential targets using it. This can lead to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and network sniffing.

Malware and Spyware 

Accidentally downloading malware or spyware can open the door for hackers to access private information on your computer and even remotely control it! This may include your credit card information and other details. 

Some malware like a keylogger, records your keystrokes or spyware that steals your browser history. The information collected is then sent to cybercriminals for illegal purposes. 


You may be wondering, can a website steal my credit card information? A straight answer is yes. With phishing, hackers can steal a user’s valuable information by disguising it as a trusted source. An attacker can create a fake login page or create a pretext to get the user to divulge sensitive data or login to a cloned webpage posing as a website of a legitimate account that the victim has.

Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks 

A common type of attack like this is exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple Pay. All that is needed to carry out this attack is an iPhone and a Visa card. The attacker would have to set up a terminal that mimics an authentic ticket barrier for transit. This can be done using radio equipment. 

The iPhone is tricked into believing it’s about to be connected to an authentic Express Transit Option. Once the spoofing terminal is set up, payment authorization signals from Apple are intercepted. 

How Can I Protect My Credit Card Data from being Stolen?

To outsmart cyber criminals, who have several ways of stealing your credit card details, you need to follow these tips:

  • Check Websites For Secure URLs: Before surfing a website, ensure the URL has HTTPS:// and is secure. This is especially important if you’re carrying out online transactions. Note: a hacker can clone a webpage of the login screen and it will still appear as “HTTPS://”. Be cautious on who is asking you to login to this particular account.
  • Avoid Saving Credit Card Data On Websites: You may be tempted to save your credit card details on Google or at certain e-commerce sites you use frequently. You shouldn’t do this. Doing so potentially gives cybercriminals access to your private information. They can also attack your browser and eventually, your saved logins (if you save them in your browser).
  • Use Strong Passwords & 2FA: One great way to avoid falling victim to a data breach is to use strong passwords. A decently strong password should contain a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. 2-factor authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of security too.
  • Avoid Writing Down Your Credit Card Information Anywhere: You shouldn’t write down your credit card number, expiration date, or even PIN. This is because you may easily drop the piece of paper, lose it, or it may get into the wrong hands.
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Opening your credit card account for suspicious charges and financial institution alerts can help you quickly catch impersonation, theft, and fraud attempts. Hackers steal credit card details using various means. Being vigilant can also keep you from falling victim.

Everything you need to safeguard your credit or debit card is provided in this post. There are many more things you can do to protect yourself as well like using a VPN and password manager. Not sure of the authenticity of an email from a bank? Contact your bank directly.

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