Giving out credit card numbers puts consumers at risk of identity theft, especially in the form of account takeover, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse explains. Thieves are able to use stolen credit card information to make fraudulent purchases and exhaust a consumer's funds in a short period of time. While consumers who report the fraud may not be held liable for more than $50, their credit reports may suffer and require extensive effort to resolve.
With account takeovers, thieves may have enough time to rack up steep charges, as victims may not be aware of the fraud until their next credit card statements arrive, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse states. If the theft causes serious credit damage, the victim may face difficulty applying for services that often require credit checks, such as loan applications, apartment rentals and jobs. Unfortunately, consumers may expose their credit card numbers and other sensitive data in many unintentional ways, such as throwing preapproved credit offers in the trash. Other potential sources of financial identity theft include card-skimming devices at restaurants and stores, computer malware that collects financial data, and fraudulent or unsecured online commerce sites.
To reduce fraud risks, consumers should keep their credit cards shielded in public and draw a line through any blank spaces before signing receipts, according to Bank of America. Checking account statements regularly increases the chance of catching fraud early, while shredding sensitive documents before disposal makes it difficult for thieves to retrieve information. Financial authorities also caution consumers against giving credit card numbers over the phone, unless they initiated the call with a reputable business.