lovro77/ E+/ Getty Images

Research and Statistics

What ID thieves do with the financial data they steal


High-tech hackers get all the headlines, but an analysis of identity theft claims data by Travelers show the most common way stolen data gets used is a low-tech one: Thieves snatch a card, then go out and use it

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Credit card and other personal data can be stolen in a variety of ways — lifted singly by nimble-fingered pickpockets, a few at a time by skimming devices or en masse by computer hackers.

Research from the insurance company Travelers into its 2014 identity theft claims data shows that the thieves employ the stolen cards and data in a variety of ways, too.

The most common? The thieves just take a stolen credit or debit card and use it. That happened in 36 percent of the cases reported to the company. Other common uses were to commit tax or employment fraud, or to use the data to obtain a new card. Opening a new bank account or line of credit was relatively rare, happening in just 3 percent of cases.

Travelers recommends these tips to ensure your identity is protected:

  • Be wary of disclosing personal information, including on social media.
  • Shred old bills and financial information.
  • Keep your personal belongings in a safe place.
  • Check your credit reports annually for free at

The 2014 data were drawn from customers who reported claims for their identity fraud insurance with Travelers. The company released its analysis of the data April 15.

What thieves do once they steal your credit card information

See related:  How to spot and prevent medical identity theft, More infographics

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Research and Statistics

Sorry, Mom: Poll says mothers losing financial influence

A scientific poll by finds that Americans say mothers are no longer their biggest financial influence. Instead, we rely on self-taught lessons

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more