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Almost once a week, I receive an email from a reader who has suffered credit card fraud and is seeking help figuring out which hacked merchant was responsible. I generally reply that this is a fruitless pursuit, and instead encourage readers to keep a close eye on their card statements and report any fraud. But it occurred to me recently that I've never published a primer on the types of card fraud and the likelihood with each of the cardholder ever learning how their account was compromised. This post is an effort to remedy that.
The card associations (Visa, MasterCard, et. al) very often know which merchant was compromised before even the banks or the merchant itself does. But they rarely tell banks which merchant got hacked. Rather, in response to a breach, the card associations will send each affected bank a list of card numbers that were compromised.
The bank may be able to work backwards from that list to the breached merchant if the merchant in question is not one that a majority of their cardholders shop at in a given month anyway. However, in the cases where banks do know which merchant caused a card to be compromised and/or replaced, the banks rarely share that information with their customers.
Here's a look at some of the most common forms of credit card fraud: