DEFINITION of 'Carding'

Carding is a form of credit card fraud in which a stolen credit card is used to charge pre-paid cards. Carding typically involves the holder of the stolen card purchasing store-branded gift cards, which can then be sold to others or used to purchase other goods that can be sold for cash.

Credit card thieves who are involved in this type of fraud are called carders.

BREAKING DOWN 'Carding'

The United States is a significant target for credit card fraud because it is a large market in which credit card and debit card use is common, and because the types of cards that are used only contain a magnetic strip rather than the chip and pin technology found in other countries.

How Carding Happens

Carding typically starts with a hacker gaining access to a store or website’s credit card processing system, with the hacker obtaining a list of credit or debit cards that were recently used to make a purchase. A hacker might exploit weaknesses in the security software and technology intended to protect credit card accounts. They might also procure credit card information by using scanners to copy the coding from the magnetic strips.

Credit card information might also be compromised by accessing the account holder’s other personal information, such as their bank accounts they have already gained entry to, targeting the information at its source. The hacker then sells the list of credit or debit card numbers to a third party – a "carder" – who uses the stolen information to purchase a gift card.

Most credit card companies offer cardholders protection from charges made if a credit or debit card is reported stolen, but by the time the cards are canceled, the carder has often made a purchase. The gift cards are used to purchase high value goods, such as cell phones, televisions, and computers, since those goods do not require registration and can be resold later.

If the carder purchases a gift card for an electronic retailer, such as Amazon, he or she may use a third party to receive the goods and then ship them to other locations. This limits the carder’s risk of drawing attention. The carder may also sell the goods on websites offering a degree of anonymity.

Because credit cards are often canceled quickly after being lost, a major part of carding involves testing the stolen card information to see if it still works. This may involve submitting purchase requests on the Internet.

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