Will Your Credit Card Blow Up?

Jill Jaracz
September 11, 2018
Credit Cards Blow Up

EMV has taken a stronghold in America, with most credit cards now containing chips that securely store your personal information. Still, understanding this new technology can take a little getting used to--after all, we've had magnetic stripe credit cards for decades--and you might be wondering, does the chip have enough power to self-destruct?

The idea that your credit card could blow up at any time is the subject of a new phishing scam reported by the blog Malwarebytes. It re-posted a picture it found on social media of a new apparent scam designed to steal credit cards.

The scam consists of a letter--a snail mail letter--sent on Barclays letterhead. The letter claims that many customers have had their cards catch fire. This is prompting the bank to do an "URGENT safety recall," so it asks cardholders to put their PIN on a form giving and send their cards to an address in India. The letter notes "IMPORTANT: the PIN number is for verification porpuses [sic] only and will destroyed [sic] immediately on a rival [sic]. Your private details will not be compromised at any time."

Like most phishing scams, this one contains many red flags to alert you to the fact that it's a fraud. First off, the phenomenal number of spelling errors is a big tip off that it's not real. This letter was also addressed, "Dear costumer [sic]," which is something completely different from "customer." A big financial institution like Barclays would never send any communication to its customers that hadn't gone through some basic proofreading first.

Secondly, a bank won't ever ask you for your PIN because it already has that information. Communication asking you to send your PIN through regular mail or email is a sure sign that someone's trying to trick you for your personal information and gain access to your account.

Thirdly, the likelihood of an EMV chip exploding or catching fire due to an issue with the chip is pretty much non-existent. CreditCards.com did a stress test last year to see how an EMV chip card would hold up to various elements.

Water? No problem. They found that chip credit cards could withstand both fresh and salt water. Cold? Thanks to the International Organization of Standardization, chip card manufacturers have to make sure their cards can withstand temperatures as low as -31 degrees Fahrenheit and then be able to withstand a rapid change up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

A chip card can survive a dunking, severe wind chill and some extreme heat. But can they survive possibly explosion-causing intense heat? The short answer is yes. The cards themselves are made of plastic layers that have to be laminated together, and that happens at a temperature of over 285 degrees Fahrenheit. During that process, the chip is already inside the card, so it's able to withstand that level of heat. Even if you accidentally put your card through a dryer, the card might warp a bit, but that's about all the damage that can happen.

While this phishing campaign is unusual because it happened through mail, consumers are constantly being phished over email in an effort to give up their account information, and according to CSOOnline.com, financial services companies like PayPal, Wells Fargo and Bank of America are some of the most spoofed brands used in phishing attacks.

Needless to say, you should be on alert at all times and carefully examine emails that come from--or look like they come from--their credit card companies to ensure that they're legit.

Look at the sender email address to make sure it's real. Also note whether the email asks you to click on a link or respond with any of your account information. Real financial institutions won't do this--if there's an issue with your account, they will simply ask you to log into your account and manage the problem there. And of course, if the email request sounds strange, it might be phishing. It doesn't hurt to call your card company to confirm whether or not the email is real.

Double-checking simple details like these can prevent you from accidentally divulging your information and potentially causing your own financial identity to explode.

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