What Happens to Credit Card Numbers That Have Been Stolen?

Apr 09, 2015
Research, Credit Cards, Identity Theft, Current Events, Financial Scams

Chilling read for students interested in how stolen credit card data circulates on the web.

From Verge:

Earlier this year, security firm BitGlass decided to test the underground marketplace with a little experiment. The company created an Excel file with 1,568 fake profiles, complete with names, phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. Along with the phony data, the file had a hidden watermark that would report back to BitGlass every time the file was opened, operating like a homing beacon. Then the company dropped the file onto a public Dropbox account and posted it to a few cybercrime forums and waited for the beacon to phone home.

How quickly did the fake credit card numbers spread?

The results were surprising because of both the broad reach of the data and how slowly it traveled. Within the first eight days, the file seems to have stayed confined to the forums where it was posted, chalking up only 200 views in the first eight days after release. Then, suddenly, the file blew up, clearing another 800 views in the next four days. After twelve days, Bitglass’s Excel file had been opened at least 1,081 times in 22 different countries.


Want to teach your students how to protect against identity theft?  Check out the NGPF Lesson on Scams, Fraud and Identity Theft

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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