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Credit Card Fraud – What To Do When It Happens

Posted on March 17, 2016

Finding out you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud can be overwhelming and stressful, but being proactive about the situation is key so it doesn’t get out of control quickly. Credit card fraud is a part of a bigger problem that’s growing year over year: identity theft. It’s no longer about just unauthorized credit card charges anymore, although that’s a big chunk of it. Credit card fraud in particular is when someone steals your credit card or account number and begins to make unauthorized charges posing as you.

Beyond prevention (reviewing your accounts and credit reports frequently, being careful about protecting your cards and PINs, etc.), you should know what to do when and if you actually become a victim of credit card theft. Let’s explore what to do when credit card fraud happens to you.

Report Anything Suspicious

When going over your credit card statements or bank statements every month, you may see a discrepancy, a charge you don’t remember making or anything else that just seems “off.” Compare the statements against your receipts. When you’re sure you didn’t make a particular purchase, call the credit card company to report it immediately. The sooner the better so they can put a stop on your card and avoid further charges.

Place an Alert

According to the NY Times, the Federal Trade Commission recommends placing an initial fraud alert with one of the three major credit reporting agencies. These agencies are required by law to send your alert to the other two agencies. This alert will remain on your credit report for a total of 90 days, and you even get a free copy of your report to peruse. Use this chance to review for any other mistakes, making sure everything is correct, from name and address to Social Security number.

File Claims with the FTC

The next step is to file a complain with the FTC along with an identity theft report with your local police department. Don’t forget to make copies of all these reports and file away in case an investigation into the credit card fraud occurs. The FTC can protect you during the investigation, and local police can also benefit from the information.

Contact Compromised Company Accounts

While it’s best to let larger watchdog agencies such as the FTC handle your investigation, you may want to contact the companies of the tampered accounts to inform them that you were the victim of credit card fraud. Avoid closing out accounts; simply explain the situation to them and inquire what the company policy is. You could request that the compromised account be assigned a new number, or you may choose to include a short statement on your credit report that explains the fraud, which will show up on your credit report for as long as you like.

Many credit card companies are becoming more and more diligent in watching your accounts for you to look for patterns and search for anomalies, according to US News and World Report. While this kind of service is affirming, it always falls on you the consumer to be on top of your credit security.

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