Fear of falling victim to credit card fraud has kept pace with terrorism as one of the things Americans are most wary, according to USA Today. As online shopping becomes more and more popular and major corporations experience data breaches, credit card fraud has become more prevalent. But while identity theft is a real threat, there are many precautions you can take to help protect yourself from falling victim.
First, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when it comes to credit card fraud. Checking your monthly bank statements for odd or unusual activity is your first line of defense against fraud. After all, nobody knows your spending habits better than you do. And online access to your own information makes it convenient for you to review on a regular basis.
If you wait for your bank or financial institution to flag a transaction as suspicious, it may be too late. Always know where your credit cards are. And, be sure to report lost or stolen cards immediately. Moreover, be on alert for calls from unfamiliar creditors or bill collectors. This could be a sure sign that someone else has applied for credit in your name.
Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. If you see any information that’s wrong or potentially fraudulent, contact the reporting agency immediately. Checking your report at least once a year is an essential part of being a vigilant user of credit.
Preventing credit card fraud
There are some pretty simple steps you can take to avoid credit card fraud from the get-go. Theft, the most obvious form of credit card fraud, can happen in a variety of ways, from low-tech dumpster diving to high-tech hacking. A thief might go through the trash to find discarded billing statements and then use your account information to buy things. These steps from the Federal Trade Commission can help you prevent credit card fraud:
✔ Don't give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you've made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you've never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints.
✔ Carry your cards separately from your wallet or purse. It can minimize your losses if someone steals either. Carry only the card you need for that outing.
✔ During a transaction, keep your eye on the card you use. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
✔ Never sign a blank receipt and always draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
✔ Save your receipts to compare with your statement.
✔ Open bills promptly and check them online often to reconcile them with purchases you've made.
✔ Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
✔ Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you'll be traveling.
✔ Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.
Responding to credit card fraud
Sometimes, all the planning and safety measures in the world just aren't enough to stop you from falling victim of fraud. So what can you do if that dreaded day comes? Contact your bank or credit card company immediately and report the suspicious activity. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to handle your concerns.
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Republished Sept. 8, 2017