Card cracking: Not what it’s cracked up to be

The scam is called card cracking and it may start off innocently enough. You see a post on a social media site announcing a contest. Or maybe a webpage that claims to have a celebrity affiliation is offering a gift card giveaway. The variations are endless, but here’s the tip-off that fraud is afoot. At some point, you’re asked for your bank account information, PIN number, or online banking credential. That’s when you can bank on the fact that those “innocent” offers aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

How does the scam work? Once card crackers have access to your account, they deposit multiple checks – usually remotely – and then make quick ATM or money order withdrawals. The goal is to get the cash in hand before the bank figures out the checks are phony.

That form of card cracking works like other scams involving the unauthorized use of your account data. You turn over your information for one purpose only to find out that scammers have used it for their own benefit.

But that’s not the only kind of card cracking. In other variations, people respond to a text, video, or social media post promising fast cash or even explicitly promoting card cracking as an easy way to pay the bills. The account holder – often a student – will hand over their debit card number, PIN, or password and allow checks to be run through their account.  In exchange, scammers will offer them a small piece of the action. The account holder may try to rationalize it as just a shady way to game the system, but c’mon. No legitimate business deposits checks that way. What’s really going on is fraud and account holders who cooperate with card crackers have stepped in the middle of it.

The scammers hope the payments are enough to keep the account holder from asking too many questions, but the question people should be asking is whether it’s worth the risk of involving themselves in criminal activity. Thanks to an ongoing card cracking crackdown, suspects are facing indictments, and people who let their accounts be used may be on the hook for the losses.

That’s not the only risk. Scammers have been known to help themselves to funds legitimately in the account – tuition money or a paycheck, perhaps – or to go on a shopping spree with the person’s debit card. If the account holder was in cahoots with the card cracker, it’s tougher to argue that the transactions were entirely unauthorized.

Many students heading off to school or joining the work force are opening their first bank accounts. Involvement in a scam like card cracking threatens their financial future. One tip that bears repeating: No above-board contest, social media promotion, or job opportunity requires that people hand over their bank cards, PIN numbers, or online banking credentials. Never give anyone a crack at your account.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Thanks for the information. I have received several of those e-mails and through social media.

Thanks for the info.

Over the past year, I have received numerous phone calls for phony stuff, although I am registered with that famous 'Do Not Call' list. Hasn't worked for me. Then too, in my spam section, I get hilarious emails from foreigner seeking funds from me to invest in their scheme. I have taken all of my copies to the local police department - Scam Division. At least they are reported somewhere.

Southern Belle, your local police department cannot do anything about international scams, especially those sent via emails (the "senders" information on a printed email is usually fake).

I used to send my scam emails to "" but realized, after wasting hours of my time daily, nothing was actually being done about the spam. It never decreased in volume.

I recommend creating a spam folder and teaching your email system (by creating filters manually) to send spam to your spam folder. That way, less of it will end up in your inbox, and you can ignore the spam folder.

Every time a bank comes up with a half thought out way to squeeze more pennies in profit off the bottom line, oh excuse me, to make thier customers life easier, they just allow another way for people to scam money out of the system. The banks don't suffer for their own stupidity, ever. WE do because they are just too big to let faiL. Meanwhile the average person continues to pay more in fees and you better believe in fines for accidentally overdrafting on occasion. We make a mistake, we pay, the bank makes a mistake, we pay. COME ON FTC, do something about the scammers AND the Banks endless ways of ripping us off please.


Thank you for this very timely alert. Please be aware that PIN stands for "Personal Information NUMBER" and so it is incorrect to refer to a "PIN Number." I'm surprised that you did that.

This a very bad scam going around Cincy. An the scam has just started

Beware of these scams.

Thank you for this information madam.Iam from out country what should we do for this report .


I've read the "Card Cracking: Not what it's cracked up to be" by, Lesley Fair. I'm so sorry about those type of fraudsters on the banking level. Those are mostly foreign transactions in my opinion. I received a many emails about gifts, donations or business offers from outside the United States. We know that banking information is private and personal, not to mention international banking laws and crime control regulations in effect anyway. And designed to help the rich get wealthier and the poor and middle class get nothing at times despite what administrative or local courts have to say about it? On several occasions, as though we don't get a fair shake without taking advantage of something or someone else. Something to think about indeed.

I've been on the do not call list for many years. I just renewed registration after several months of unsolicited calls.
(A) Two calls recently from India from those who want to"fix" my computer (I deny having one and hang up). I'm told they should be told "Just a minute, I'll get the person you need to talk to.." and then walk away leaving the phone off the hook. It has worked for some.

(B)Had dozens of calls since February from a variety of well known health insurance companies asking for "Cynthia".They claim "she" called them and gave this number. I believe they were legit. and that someone asked for health insurance info. online giving my number either accidentally or purposely.
I explained to each rep. and begged them to get me off their call lists...After 5-8 calls a week, I seem to have finally convinced them this is a dead lead. Hopefully.

Clare, That may have been a debt collector. Cynthia may have had the same last name as you.

These FB & comment replies are suspect. Scammers possibly getting contact info. I was contacted by several numbers inquiring of my interests for a job. After replying DNC, curiosity lead me to probe. Mind you they have no personal info (name) but they are offering a job. This one in particular wanted to use my CL# to post apartment rental ads. Mind you they emailed me all of the info as it should appear on the CL#; but for whatever reason you'd rather type in my entire email addr as opposed to clicking a link and add it to your own acct? ;-/

Nice job

I've been a victim of "card cracking" I agreed to give my information (yes so stupid!) I saw my account with almost $3000 next day gone & I didn't get one cent. Now I owe Chase bank those $3000. In this case what do I do now? I know who is responsible. Do I contract a lawyer? Or just pay?

If you want to report misuse of your credit card, you can contact your credit card company or your state Attorney General’s office.

You can also contact your state and local consumer protection agencies. If you want to find a lawyer, this state-by-state list from the American Bar Association and this site from the State Bar Associations may be helpful.

Did you ever fix that?

So did you ever get it settled?

How can we report people that's cracking cards?

You can report fraud to the FTC at, or to your state and local consumer protection agencies.

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