Can someone steal your money if they have your credit card number?

Having your credit card number stolen can be scary. While a thief won’t have access to your actual money, they may be able to use your card details fraudulently to make purchases or take out cash advances. Thankfully there are steps you can take to limit the damage.

Can someone steal your money if they have your credit card number?

How Your Credit Card Works

When you use your credit card to make a purchase, your credit card number, expiration date, CVV code, and other details are transmitted to authorize the payment. The merchant never actually receives your “money”—just the approval to charge your account up to a certain amount.

Your bank places a hold on that amount in your account, and the merchant collects payment later. So having just your card number does not give a thief direct access to the funds in your bank account.

What Information Do Thieves Need?

To successfully impersonate you to your credit card issuer, a thief needs:

  • Card number – The 15-16 digit number on the front
  • Expiration date – The end date shown on your card, typically 2-4 years in the future
  • CVV code – The 3-4 digit code on the card back
  • Your name – As it appears on the card

With this information, thieves can charge purchases to your account or even generate a fake plastic card to use in stores.

Steps Thieves Take When Stealing Your Number

Data breaches have become increasingly common, putting your information at risk of theft. If hackers access your credit card number, here are the typical next steps:

  1. Sell it on the dark web to other criminals
  2. Create fake cards to use in stores
  3. Make “card not present” purchases by phone/online
  4. Take out cash advances from your account

This all happens quickly, so it’s important to monitor your account closely for fraudulent charges.

Don’t Wait for Your Bill

Many people don’t realize they’ve been the victim of card fraud until their statement arrives showing charges they didn’t make. But at that point the damage may Already be done.

  • Check your account frequently even if you don’t use your card often.
  • Set up transaction alerts to notify you of all purchases in real time.
  • Report unfamiliar charges immediately to limit losses.
Method What Thieves Need Risk Level Typical Losses
Sell on Dark Web Just card number Low for you $0 – thief profits only
Create Fake Cards to Use in Stores Card number + expiration date + CVV code + your name High Hundreds to thousands per card
Make Online/Phone Purchases Card number + expiration date + CVV code + your name + billing address High Hundreds to thousands per stolen account login
Take Cash Advances Card number + Expiration date + CVV code + PIN Medium Up to credit limit or $50,000 max

What To Do If Your Card Is Stolen

If you discover unauthorized charges or suspect your card details have been stolen, act fast:

  1. Call your bank immediately to report the card as lost/stolen. This prevents future charges.
  2. Temporary freeze your credit to stop thieves from opening new accounts.
  3. Change passwords on every website where the card was stored.
  4. Review statements and report all fraudulent charges to your bank.

By law, you have $0 liability for unauthorized credit card charges. Work closely with your bank to document damages and get reimbursed.

Beware Ongoing Risks

Even if you report the initial fraud promptly, your credit card number now lives forever on the dark web. Criminals buy and sell these details for years.

It’s wise to get a new card number from your bank after fraud. Also monitor your credit closely over the next 12-24 months for signs of repeat offense.

Key Takeaways

  • While no thief has direct access to “your” money, stolen card details can lead to fraudulent charges or cash advances.
  • Monitor your accounts closely via online banking and transaction alerts.
  • If your information is compromised, immediately call your bank then freeze credit and change passwords.
  • Get a new card number from your bank and watch for repeat fraud attempts.


Having your payment information fall into the wrong hands can certainly be unsettling. But thankfully U.S. laws protect consumers from losses due to credit card theft and fraud. By taking appropriate precautions—freezing credit, setting alerts, frequently checking statements—you can greatly limit damages should your card details ever be stolen.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can someone completely drain your bank account if they have your card number?
    No, having just your card number does not provide access to your bank account funds. At most thieves could charge purchases up to your credit limit or take out cash advances.
  2. What should you do if your credit card is lost or stolen?
    Immediately call the number on the back of your card to report it as lost/stolen. This prevents future unauthorized charges.
  3. Do you need a new credit card if it gets stolen?
    If your physical card goes missing, you can request a replacement card without changing your account number. But it’s wise to get a new account number if fraud does occur.
  4. Is it identity theft if someone steals your credit card?
    Having just your credit card stolen alone is not necessarily identity theft on its own. But it could facilitate ID theft down the road. Be sure to freeze credit and monitor reports closely.
  5. Can a credit card thief steal your identity?
    While having just your card number doesn’t directly reveal your identity, thieves could use fraudulent charges to obtain more personal information and fully assume your identity.
  6. What happens if someone gets your credit card number and security code?
    With your card number, expiration date, and CVV security code, thieves can make online, phone, and mail order purchases in your name or even create fake plastic cards.
  7. Can someone use your credit card without the CVV?
    Most online and phone merchants require the 3-4 digit CVV code on the back of cards to process payments without the physical card present. But some do not, posing a risk.
  8. What should I do if I think my credit card details have been stolen?
    Notify your bank immediately to report the card lost/stolen. Freeze credit with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to stop approval of new accounts. Monitor statements closely for fraudulent charges.
  9. How long does it take for stolen credit card information to be used?
    Criminals often sell stolen card data on the dark web immediately. But the card details may continue to be used for 1-2 years by various online thieves before expired/caught.
  10. Can a store employee steal your credit card information?
    Yes, between copying down card numbers or snapping quick pictures of cards, retail/restaurant employees do sometimes steal customer payment information to use or sell online.
  11. What happens if you catch a credit card thief?
    If you catch someone physically stealing or using your card fraudulently, contact the police to file identity theft charges. Provide banks/creditors evidence like police reports to clear unauthorized debts.
  12. How do you protect your credit cards from theft?
    Check statements frequently for unauthorized charges. Shred documents with card details before discarding. Do not let servers or gas attendants walk away with your card. Use RFID blocking sleeves to stop wireless skimmers.
  13. Can someone steal your debit card number?
    Yes, thieves can steal debit card data just like credit cards to either make direct purchases with it or encode card data onto fake debit cards. The limits are lower but monitoring accounts is still critical.
  14. What happens if someone gets your debit card PIN number?
    With both your debit card details and associated PIN, thieves could withdraw cash from ATMs or even clone your card data onto a fake debit card to go on a shopping spree at retail stores.
  15. Can someone use your debit card without the PIN?
    While most stores require a PIN for debit purchases, some process small amounts without entering a PIN allowing thieves to make unauthorized transactions. Monitor statements closely!
  16. How can you tell if someone stole your debit card number?
    Frequently check your account activity via online banking or apps to identify unauthorized withdrawals or pending charges from merchants you don’t patronize. Report immediately to limit losses from fraud.
  17. What happens if someone steals your credit card and buys stuff?
    Contact your bank immediately to report the charges as fraudulent and have a new card number issued. By law, consumers have $0 liability for unauthorized credit charges but documenting the crime is critical.
  18. How long do credit card thieves go to jail?
    Penalties for credit card theft and fraud vary by state but commonly include both fines up to $250,000 and jail time between 1-10 years depending on severity, prior criminal records, and other factors.
  19. Can the police catch someone who stole your credit card?
    Investigators can subpoena records, track IP addresses, and use other evidence to catch thieves. Details like where/when the card was stolen aid police. High dollar fraud often gets more resource dedication.
  20. How hard is it to catch credit card thieves?
    The transient nature of criminals plus difficulty tracking online/anonymous activities makes catching thieves before major damage is done very tricky. But victims can help police by monitoring accounts closely/reporting promptly.

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