TUCoPS :: Scams :: credit1.txt

Lightmans Credit Fraud Series Part 1

  <->                              <->
  <->        David Lightman        <->
  <->                              <->
  <->             and              <->
  <->                              <->
  <->    -=The Administration=-    <->
  <->                              <->
  <->                              <->
  <->           Present:           <->
  <->                              <->
  <->                              <->
  <->        Credit Carding        <->
  <->            Part I            <->
  <->           The Card           <->
  <->                              <->
  <->                              <->
  <->   This article will reveal   <->
  <->   a few hidden facts about   <->
  <->   credit cards.  Parts I I   <->
  <->   and I I I will explain a   <->
  <->   few new techniques about   <->
  <->   getting and abusing some   <->
  <->   of your own found cards.   <->
  <->                              <->

     There are at least three types
of security devices on credit cards
that you aren't supposed to know
about.  These are the account number,
the signature panel, and the magnetic

  The Account Number

     A Social Security card has nine
digits.  So do two-part Zip codes.
A domestic phone number, including
area code, has ten digits.  Yet a
complete MasterCard number has twenty
digits.  Why so many?

     It is not mathematically necessary
for any credit-card account number to
have more than eight digits.  Each
cardholder must, of course, have a
unique number.  Visa and MasterCard
are estimated to have about sixty-five
million cardholders each.  Thus their
numbering system must have at least
sixty-five million available numbers.

     There are one hundred million
possible combinations of eight
digits --- 00000000, 00000001, 00000002,
00000003, all the way up to 99999999.
So eight digits would be enough.  To
allow for future growth, an issuer the
size of Visa or MasterCard could not
opt for nine digits-- enough for a
billion different numbers.

     In fact, a Visa card has
thirteen digits and sometimes more. An
American Express card has fifteen
digits.  Diners Club cards have
fourteen.  Carte Blanche has ten.
Obviously, the card issuers are
projecting that they billions and
billions of cardholders and need those
digits to ensure a different number
for each.  The extra digits are a
security device.

     Say you Visa number is 4211 503
417 268.  Each purchase must be
entered into a computer from a sales
slip.  The account number tags the
purchase to your account.  The persons
who enter account numbers into
computers get bored and sometimes
make mistakes.  They might enter
4211 503 471 268  or  4211 703 417 268

     The advantage of this thirteen-
digit numbering system is that it is
unlikely any Visa cardholder has 4211
503 471 268  or  4211 703 417 268 for
an account number.  There are 10
trillion possible thirteen-digit Visa
numbers (0000 000 000 000; 0000 000
000 001........9999 999 999 999).  Only
about sixty-five million of those
numbers are numbers of actual, active
accounts.  The odds that an incorrectly
entered number would correspond to a
real number are something like about
1  in  150,000.

     Other card-numbering systems are
even more secure.  Of the quadrillion
possible fifteen-digit American
Express card numbers, only about 11
million are assigned.  The chance of
a random number happening to correspond
to an existing account number is about
1 in 90,000,000.  Taking all twenty
digits on a MasterCard, there are one
hundred quintillion (100,000,000,000,
000,000,000) possible numbers for
sixty-five million cardholders.  The
chance of a random string of digits
matching a real MasterCard number is
about one in one and a half trillion.

     Among other things, this makes
possible those television ads inviting
holders of credit cards to phone to
order merchandise.  The operstators
who take the calls never see the
callers' credit cards nor their
signatures.  How can they be sure
the callers even have credit cards?

     They base their confidence on
the security of the credit card
numbering systems.  If someone calls
in and makes up a credit card number,
the number surely won't be an existing
credit card number.  The deception
can be spotted instantly by plugging
into the credit-card company's
computer.  For all practical purposes,
the only way to come up with a genuine
credit-card number is to read it off
a credit card.  The number, not a 
piece of plastic is enough.

  Signature Panel

     You're not supposed to erase the
signature panel if you steal a card!
You might be thinking that you could
just write the cardholder's name on
the panel. You're thinking that this
would be great if you were going to
withdraw some cash from the bank, for
they make you sign a slip and it must
match up to the signature on the card.
If you or anyone else does this, you
will soon find the card completely
worthless (at least it can not be

     Some credit cards have background
design that rubs off if anyone tries
to erase the signature.  There's the
"fingerprint" design on the American
Express panel, repeated Visa or
MasterCard logos on some bank cards,
and the "Safesig" design on others.
The principle is the same as with the
security paper, the wavy-line pattern
erases, leaving a white area.  This
makes it obvious that the signature
has been altered.

     There is a more elaborate gimmick
in credit-card panels.  It is said
that if you erase the panel, a secret
word, "VOID", appears to prevent use
of the card.  The Administration has
taken 15 common credit cards and
sacrificed them to test this theory.

     The odinary pen eraser will erase
credit-card signature panels, if
slowly.  The panels are removed pretty
easy with a cloth and Energine.  This
method disolves the panels cleanly.
Of the 15 cards tested, 6 had
nothing under the panel (other than
a contiuation of the cards back design
where there was one).  Nine cards had
the words "VOID" under the panel.  In
all cases, the VOID's were printed
small and repeated many times under the

<-><->  This is How They Ranked  <-><->

       Cards with VOID Devices

          Bonwit Teller
          Chase Convenience Banking
          First Interstate Bank Card
          I. Magnin
          Joseph Magnin
          Montgomer Ward
          Visa  (Chase Manhattan)

      Cards without VOID Devices

          American Express Gold Card
          MasterCard (Citibank)
          Saks Fifth Avenue

     When held to a strong light, the
VOIDs were visible through the
Bloomingdale's even without removing
the panel.

  The Way Around this Security!

     There is but one way we could
think of getting around this feature...
painting over the panel!  This would
work only if the card didn't have a
design on the panel.  Cards that have
a difficult color to match would
be near immpossible also (Saks' panel
is greenish-tan khaki color).

  The Magnetic Strip

     One of the last security devices
is on the back, the brown magnetic
strip.  You probably think that there
are sun-dry personal details about the
cardholder stored in the strip.  The
strip is really no more information
capacity than a similar snippet of
recording tape.  For their part, banks
are reticent about the strip.

     The strip need not contain any
information other than the account
number or similer identification.  Any
further information needed to complete
and automatic-teller transaction --such
as the current account balances-- can
be called up from bank computers and
need not be encoded in the strip.

     Evidently, the card expiration
date is in the strip.  Expirated cards
can be "eaten" by automatic-teller
machines even when the expired card
has the same account number and name
as its valid replacement card.  Credit
limit, address, phone number, employer,
ect., must not be indicated in the
strip, for banks do not issue new cards
just because this information changes.

     It is not clear if the personal
indentification number is in the strip
or called up from the bank computer.
Many automatic teller machines have a
secret limit of three attempts for
providing the correct personal
identification number.  After three
wrong attempts, the "customer" is
assumed to be a crook with a stolen
credit card and the card is "eaten".

     It is possible to scramble the
information in the strip by rubbing a
magnet over it.  Worker's in hospitols
or research facilities with large
electromagnets sometimes find their
cards no longer work in automatic-
teller machines.

  The Bloomingdale's Color Code

     Only in a few cases does the color
of the credit card mean anything.
There are the American Express, Visa,
and MasterCard gold cards for preferred
customers.  The Air Travel Card comes
in red and green, of which green is
better.  The most elaborate color
scheme, and a source of some confusion
to status-consious queues, is that of
Bloomingdale's credit cards.  The five
colors of Bloomingdale's cards do not
signify credit limits per se, but they
do tip off the sales staff as to what
type of customer you are.  According
to Bloomingdale's credit deptpartment,
here is how it works: Low color in
pecking order is blue, issued to
Bloomingdale's employees as a perk
in their compensation packages.  The
basic Bloomie's card is yellow.  Like
most department store cards, it can
be used to spread payments over several
months with the payment of a finance
charge.  The red card gives holders
three months' free interest and is
issued to customers who regularly
make large purchases.  The silver card
is good for unlimited, but as with a
travel and entertainment card, all
charges must be paid within thirty
days.  The gold card offers the same
payment options as the yellow card, but
is reserved for the store's biggest

<-><-><-><-><-><-><-=> David Lightman

TUCoPS is optimized to look best in Firefox® on a widescreen monitor (1440x900 or better).
Site design & layout copyright © 1986-2024 AOH