Q: I’ve just discovered that my credit card’s been frauded. I’m in a total state of panic. What should I do now?
A: Credit card fraud is a serious problem that affects nearly half a million Americans annually. Learning that your card’s been frauded can be stressful and very worrying. However, there are proactive steps you can take to mitigate the damage and help you move forward. Keep calm, and take a look at what to do if your credit card has been compromised.
Notify your credit card issuer
As soon as you discover fraudulent activity on your credit card account, contact the card issuer through their customer service hotline. Let them know about the unauthorized charges and provide them the details of the transactions. Most credit card issuers have 24/7 customer support to promptly handle situations like these. By reporting the fraud immediately, you limit your liability for the fraudulent charges and prevent further unauthorized use of your card.
It’s important to note that major credit card companies have a zero liability policy for fraudulent charges. Even if your credit card company does not have this policy, your liability for credit card fraud is capped at $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Freeze your card and request a replacement
Once you’ve contacted your credit card issuer, ask them to freeze the compromised card so that no additional charges can be made on this account. Next, request a replacement card with a new account number and security code. The credit card issuer will guide you through the process and ensure that your old card is deactivated. Don’t forget to update any automatic payments or subscriptions that are linked to your old card.
Review your statements and dispute unauthorized charges
Often, when a scammer gains access to a victim’s credit card account, they gain access to all of their personal information. Consequently, it’s crucial that you continue to review your credit card statements for any other unauthorized transactions in the months following the fraud. Report all unrecognized charges to your credit card issuer and file a dispute. This typically involves filling out a form or submitting a written statement. Keep copies of all communication and documentation related to the disputed charges for future reference.
Contact a credit bureau and request a fraud alert
Next, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to ask that a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. The bureau you contact will notify the other two, ensuring that potential creditors are alerted to the possibility of fraudulent activity. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing new credit. This way, the scammer who’s frauded your credit card account can’t use your information to take out a loan or open an additional line of credit.
At this time, you may also want to place a credit freeze on your name, which will make it impossible for anyone to open a new line of credit in your name. This may, of course, prevent you from obtaining a new credit card at this time, but it will provide you with the ultimate protection against additional fraud. If you do go this route, you will need to request a freeze from each of the credit bureaus.
Monitor your credit reports
Keep a close eye on your credit reports in the months following the fraudulent activity. Check for any new accounts opened in your name or other suspicious activity. Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service that alerts you to any changes or inquiries on your credit reports. Early detection of any fraudulent activity can help prevent further damage and assist in resolving any issues that may arise.
Strengthen your online security
Take steps to enhance your online security to prevent future incidents. Change your passwords for all online banking, shopping and other financial accounts. Consider enabling two-factor authentication for added security. Be extra careful about sharing sensitive information when online and be vigilant against phishing or smishing attempts. Regularly update your antivirus software and keep your devices and operating systems patched with the latest security updates.
Report the fraud to law enforcement agencies
If you’ve confirmed that you’re a fraud victim, it’s a good idea to report the crime to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website, where you can file an identity theft report.
Credit card fraud can wreck your life, but taking the proper steps as soon as you’ve discovered the fraud can minimize the damage. Use this guide to know what to do in the event of credit card fraud.