Defending Against Card Not Present (CNP) Fraud

8 mins

Card Not Present (CNP) fraud is a widespread form of card fraud happening globally. It's a big headache for businesses, no matter their size or industry. This type of fraud happens when someone gets hold of your card details and uses them without needing the physical card. The result? Businesses lose money.

To keep your business and customers safe, it's crucial to be proactive. This article covers all things CNP fraud, from the trick’s fraudsters use to the steps you can take to prevent it. We'll break down the common tactics bad actors use and give you the lowdown on how to protect your business and customers from falling victim to CNP fraud.

What is Card Not Present Fraud?

CNP fraud is a type of credit card or debit card fraud where the perpetrator doesn't need to physically possess the card to make unauthorized transactions. In traditional card transactions, like those that occur at a physical store, the card is present during the purchase. However, in CNP transactions, the cardholder's information is manually entered or provided electronically without the actual card being swiped or inserted.

This form of fraud typically occurs in online or over-the-phone transactions, where the cardholder's details, such as the card number, expiration date, and security code, are used to make purchases. CNP fraud can also take place through mail order transactions. The absence of a physical card makes it challenging to verify the identity of the person conducting the transaction, making CNP fraud a prevalent and challenging issue for businesses.

Fraudsters employ various tactics to obtain cardholder information for CNP fraud, including phishing schemes, data breaches, and the use of malicious software to capture sensitive data. Once they have the necessary details, they can make unauthorized purchases, leading to financial losses for both the cardholder and the affected business.

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Common Methods for CNP

Fraudsters employ various methods to carry out Card Not Present (CNP) fraud, exploiting vulnerabilities in online and remote transaction processes. Here are some common methods used by perpetrators:

  1.     Phishing: Fraudsters often use phishing emails or messages to trick individuals into providing their sensitive card information. These messages may appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or online retailers, prompting recipients to click on malicious links and enter their card details on fake websites.
  2.     Data Breaches: Cybercriminals target databases containing cardholder information, gaining unauthorized access to large sets of data. These breaches can occur within businesses, financial institutions, or third-party service providers. Once obtained, the stolen information is used for fraudulent transactions.
  3.     Malware and Spyware: Malicious software can be installed on a victim's computer or device without their knowledge, allowing fraudsters to capture keystrokes, screen images, or other sensitive information. This harvested data is then used for unauthorized transactions.
  4.     Card Skimming: While not directly related to CNP transactions, card skimming involves placing small devices on ATMs or point-of-sale terminals to capture physical card details. The obtained information can be used for both in-person and online transactions.
  5.     Account Takeover: In an account takeover, fraudsters gain unauthorized access to a user's online account by obtaining login credentials through various means, such as phishing or using previously exposed credentials from other data breaches. Once in control, they can make CNP transactions using the compromised account.
  6.     Social Engineering: This method involves manipulating individuals into divulging confidential information. Fraudsters may pose as trustworthy entities, such as customer support representatives, and trick individuals into revealing their card details.
  7.     Carding: In carding attacks, criminals attempt to verify stolen card information by making small online purchases. Once they confirm the validity of the card details, they proceed to make larger unauthorized transactions.

Card Not Present Fraud Impact

The impact of Card Not Present (CNP) fraud can be substantial, affecting both businesses and individuals. Here are some key aspects of the impact of CNP fraud:

  1.     Financial Losses for Businesses: CNP fraud often results in direct financial losses for businesses. Fraudulent transactions can lead to chargebacks, where the cardholder disputes the unauthorized charges. Businesses are typically held responsible for these chargebacks, resulting in the loss of the merchandise or services provided and the associated revenue.
  2.     Reputation Damage: Beyond immediate financial losses, CNP fraud can harm a business's reputation. Customers may lose trust in a company that fails to protect their sensitive information, especially if the fraud leads to unauthorized transactions on their accounts. Negative reviews and word-of-mouth can tarnish a brand's image.
  3.     Operational Costs: Businesses must invest in additional security measures and fraud prevention tools to combat CNP fraud. These operational costs can include the implementation of advanced authentication systems, continuous monitoring, and staff training to recognize and respond to potential fraud.
  4.     Customer Inconvenience: For individuals who fall victim to CNP fraud, the experience can be highly inconvenient. They may need to go through the process of reporting the fraudulent activity, disputing charges, and securing their accounts. This can be time-consuming and may lead to disruptions in their financial activities.
  5.     Increased Regulatory Scrutiny: Regulatory bodies and authorities may impose fines or penalties on businesses that fail to adequately protect customer data. Non-compliance with data protection regulations can result in legal consequences, adding to the overall impact of CNP fraud.

Common Technologies in CNP Fraud

Card Not Present (CNP) fraud involves the exploitation of various technologies by fraudsters to carry out unauthorized transactions. Understanding these technologies is crucial for businesses aiming to protect themselves and their customers. Here are some common technologies associated with CNP fraud:

1. Phishing Websites and Emails:

Technology Used: Fraudsters leverage web development tools to create convincing phishing websites that mimic legitimate platforms. They also use email platforms to send phishing emails.

How it Works: Phishing websites are designed to trick users into entering sensitive information, such as credit card details. Phishing emails often contain malicious links that direct recipients to these fraudulent sites.

2. Malware and Spyware:

Technology Used: Malicious software and spyware are developed using programming languages and coding techniques.

How It Works: Once installed on a user's device, malware can capture keystrokes, screen images, or other sensitive data. This information is then transmitted to the fraudster, enabling them to access credit card details entered during online transactions.

3. Data Skimming Devices:

Technology Used: Skimming devices are physical gadgets that can be attached to card readers or ATMs. They are designed using various technologies, including miniaturized hardware components.

How It Works: Skimming devices capture the magnetic stripe information from a physical card when it is swiped. This stolen data is then used to create cloned cards or for online transactions.

̌4. Proxy Servers:

Technology Used: Proxy servers are set up using networking technologies.

How It Works: Fraudsters use proxy servers to hide their true IP addresses, making it difficult for businesses to trace the origin of suspicious transactions. This helps them evade detection and conduct fraudulent activities anonymously.

5. Automated Bots:

Technology Used: Automated bots are programmed using scripting languages.

How It Works: Bots can be used to automate the testing of stolen credit card information on e-commerce websites. They can rapidly execute multiple transactions to verify the validity of card details, paving the way for larger fraudulent activities.

6. Account Takeover Tools:

Technology Used: Account takeover tools often involve the use of password-cracking software and methods.

How It Works: These tools facilitate the unauthorized access to user accounts by attempting to crack passwords or using stolen login credentials obtained from data breaches. Once control is established, fraudsters can make CNP transactions using the compromised accounts.

7. Blockchain Exploitation:

Technology Used: Blockchain exploits may involve smart contract vulnerabilities or weaknesses in decentralized applications.

How It Works: As blockchain technology becomes more prevalent, fraudsters may target weaknesses in cryptocurrency transactions or smart contracts, potentially leading to fraudulent activities in CNP scenarios involving digital currencies.

Detection and Prevention Strategies for CNP Fraud

Detection Strategies:

Following are some of the card not present fraud detection strategies.

1. Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning:

Employ advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to analyze transaction patterns and detect anomalies. These systems can learn from historical data to identify unusual behavior indicative of fraudulent activity.

2. Behavioral Analysis:

Implement behavioral analysis tools that track and analyze user behavior during online transactions. Deviations from a user's typical behavior, such as unusual purchasing patterns, may trigger alerts for further investigation.

3. Device Fingerprinting:

Utilize device fingerprinting technologies to recognize and track devices used in transactions. Sudden changes in the device or location associated with a user account can raise red flags for potential fraud.

4. Real-Time Monitoring:

Implement real-time monitoring systems to detect and respond to suspicious activities immediately. This proactive approach allows businesses to intervene and verify transactions in progress.

5. Geolocation Verification:

Verify the geolocation of transactions to ensure they align with the user's typical locations. Unusual transactions from unexpected locations may indicate fraudulent activity.

6. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

Require multi-factor authentication for users during sensitive transactions. Adding an extra layer of verification, such as a one-time password sent to the user's mobile device, enhances security.

7. IP Address Analysis:

Analyze IP addresses associated with transactions. Unusual or high-risk IP addresses may indicate fraudulent activity, especially if they are known for malicious behavior.

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Prevention Strategies:

Following are some of the card not present fraud prevention strategies.


1. Encryption of Customer Data:

Encrypt sensitive customer data, including credit card details, to protect it from unauthorized access. This ensures that even if data is intercepted, it is meaningless without the decryption key.

2. Secure Payment Gateways:

Use secure and reputable payment gateways that comply with industry standards for security. These gateways help protect cardholder information during online transactions.

3. Regular Security Audits:

Conduct regular security audits to identify and address vulnerabilities in systems and processes. This includes testing for potential weaknesses in payment processing systems.

4. Customer Education:

Educate customers about secure online practices, including the importance of strong passwords, the risks of phishing, and the need to protect their personal information. Informed customers are more likely to take precautions.

5. Transaction Velocity Monitoring:

Monitor transaction velocity to detect unusual spikes in activity. Rapid, high-volume transactions can be a sign of fraudulent behaviour and warrant further investigation.

6. Collaboration with Industry Networks:

Participate in industry networks and share information about known fraud patterns. Collaboration can help businesses stay informed about emerging threats and improve collective defenses.

7. Regulatory Compliance:

Ensure compliance with relevant regulations and standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Compliance helps establish a strong foundation for secure payment processing.


Safeguarding against CNP fraud demands a multi-faceted approach. Businesses must leverage advanced technologies, employ robust detection strategies, and prioritize preventive measures. From real-time monitoring to customer education and secure payment gateways, a comprehensive defense is crucial. Ongoing adaptation to emerging threats, compliance with industry standards, and collaboration within networks are key elements for businesses aiming to protect themselves and their customers from the pervasive threat of CNP fraud.

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