9 Must-Know Ways to Spot a Fake Credit or Debit Card

With the rise of technology, counterfeit, cloned, altered and forged (CAF) cards are up a reported 12% over last year. This article provides you a quick law enforcement-level primer on how to detect a fake card beyond just matching ID and verifying the card with the processor.



First, look at the numbers to ensure they are evenly spaced and aligned. A counterfeiter typically uses an aftermarket tipper/embossing machine that handles one number at a time. As such, numbers are often skewed.



Next, check to see if the account number matches the card name. Amex will start with a 3, Visa with a 4, MasterCard (MC) a 5 and Discover with a 6. You would be surprised how many thieves fail to do their basic homework.


Magnetic Strip

Some thieves are lazy or cheap and fail to coordinate the magnetic strip data with the data on the front of the card. To get around this, bad guys will purposely damage the strip by scratching or demagnetizing it thereby forcing the merchant to manually enter the altered numbers on the front.


Receipt Match

If you don’t have access to a magnetic strip decoding device to check the strip, one easy way to verify the strip and number is to run a transaction and see if the last four numbers printed on the receipt match.



Check the hologram sticker on the front of Visa and MC and the top back strip on an Amex card for the foil hologram. Forged cards often have a dull, 2D look.


Signature Strip

The signature strip requires a different material when creating a card and is also often overlooked when forging. The strip should be on the back and white.


UV Logos

If you are in a branch and have access to a ultraviolet or black light check the UV logo on most cards. “AM EX” will appear on front of an Amex card, “MC” on a MasterCard, a flying “V” in the lower left front and a dove logo in the middle of a Visa card and “Discover” will be written across a Discover card.



Most cards have a microprint verification number that can be seen with a magnify glass. This gets about 80% of all thieves and the microprint can usually be found under the account number or on back. While it varies with different cards, usually the microprint duplicates the first or last 4 numbers of the account number.



Finally, nothing verifies fraud like nervous behavior of the card holder. The most common tactic is for the thief to try to confuse or distract the clerk in order to take the attention off the CAF card.

If any of the above doesn’t look right, contact law enforcement as chances are high you are dealing with identity theft and possibly counterfeiting. Credit and debit card fraud is fairly easy to detect because of the above, while prepaid cards usually have only about half of the above fraud prevention mechanics and so are harder. While this article won’t make you an expert, it will provide you an above average knowledge.

Source: Banc Investment Daily; August, 4, 2011; bancinvestment.com.