Counterfeit credit and debit cards have become easier for criminals and crime syndicates to manufacture. Merchants have to take special care to look out for these cards, since these cards are based on stolen cardholder information and will likely create a chargeback. While a good deal of fraud is done anonymously online, stolen cards can be used to make a variety of purchases in-person for valuable consumer goods. As a merchant, you could experience serious losses if a criminal group uses counterfeit cards at your store, so it pays to look out for fake cards.
While some cards are so well made that they are nearly impossible to spot, here are some typical aspects of counterfeit cards that you should be aware of:
- Card number may not be embossed on the card. (Note that some newer RFID and EMV cards may be perfectly flat, so telling a real from a fake is not as easy as it used to be!)
- Altered numbers. Some fake cards are made with cards that were once in use. Sometimes the credit card number and name that were embossed on the card have been replaced, and there are telltale signs around the name and card number. The back of the card may show signs of alteration where numbers have been imprinted originally.
- Hologram is not visible. Some sophisticated card manufacturers can counterfeit holograms, but if there is a shiny spot with an image that doesn’t move, then the card could be fake.
- The signature line on the back of the card does not have the credit card brand name micro-printed in the background. Blank white space is suspicious. Also, if the card number (along with the CVV code) is not printed on the back of the card something may be amiss.
- Card is totally blank. Most often, blank cards are used at ATMs and self-service checkouts where the card is not handed to a cashier. People may have multiple blank cards encoded with stolen credit card information.
- Poor printing. If the card looks like it was printed on an inkjet printer, it may well have been printed on a blank card with a magnetic stripe on the back. Look for smudges and imperfections..
- Wrong card type. Many counterfeiters encode store gift cards with stolen card information, so cashiers need to be alert if a “gift” card starts acting like a consumer credit card during the checkout process.
The proliferation of high-quality counterfeit cards is one reason that credit card issuers are moving more quickly to EMV cards (AKA Smart Cards), which contain microchips embedded with encrypted credit card information. These cards, which are much more difficult to manufacture, should thwart most counterfeiters who can’t replicate the electronics within the cards themselves. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have all created roadmaps for card acceptance by merchants, who may need to upgrade to more modern technology in order to get the best rates on these cards. While the magnetic strip on the back of a credit card may not go away immediately, at some point cards may be issued that can only be read through a contact pad or radio frequency.
To prevent credit card fraud and chargebacks, Capital Processing Network recommends using as many card verification techniques as possible. Counterfeit cards usually have a short shelf life because processing companies use sophisticated techniques to spot unusual transaction patterns. However, criminals may have multiple cards at their disposal, and may only make one purchase per card. A careful examination of cards, especially during high dollar purchases, is highly recommended.