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I’m a Victim of Credit Card Fraud — What Do I Do?

Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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At least 10% of Americans have been victims of credit card fraud as of 2012. To throw another scary number at you, 40% of all financial fraud is related to credit cards. Credit card fraud isn’t like shark attacks or plane crashes. In fact, it has become almost commonplace. If you’ve fallen victim to credit card fraud, don’t despair. It happens so often that credit card companies have had plenty of practice sorting out the mess. You’ll be fine as long as you follow the right steps and act fast.

1. Contact your credit card issuer

As soon as you notice fraudulent activity, get on the phone with your credit card company. One of the benefits of using a credit card over a debit card is you will be held responsible for no more than $50 in case of theft. Still, the sooner you call, the better.

Generally, the issuer will close your account and overnight you a new credit card with a new account number. Your account history and balance will remain as they were pre-fraud. If multiple accounts have been compromised (like if your wallet was stolen), contact every company where you have an account.

» MORE: How to Dispute Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

2. Contact the police

A police report can be essential to repairing damage to your credit. Make sure you not only file a report, but get a copy for your records. You can use it to verify the nature of the fraud with your card issuer and the credit bureaus. You can use it as proof as you work to fix your credit. Also be sure to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

3. Contact the credit bureaus

Your string of phone calls ends with the three major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The credit bureaus will initiate a 90-day fraud alert on your file. With that launched, companies are required to contact you for verification when a new account is opened under your name. If you choose to, you also can freeze your account, preventing lenders from reviewing your file and issuing new accounts.

4. Keep careful records

When resolving credit card fraud, it’s vital to keep an organized file of all relevant paperwork and evidence. With any luck, the process with be smooth and painless. But sometimes, complications crop up, and you’ll want to arm yourself with all available documents. Along with getting a copy of the police report, take notes from conversations with the authorities, keep records of conversations with issuers and credit bureaus, and hold onto statements or bills that show information about fraudulent transactions.

5. Practice vigilance

Even after your life returns to normal, stay alert and keep an eye on your accounts. This means regularly checking free credit reports and frequently reviewing your account activity. It doesn’t hurt to follow up with your credit card company and credit bureaus with a letter summarizing the events in precise chronological order. Remember, credit card issuers are ready to help, but that doesn’t mean the process will go off without a hitch.

Credit card thief image courtesy of Shutterstock