We use our credit cards in any number of places, from gas stations to online marketplaces to simple payment terminals, that leave us vulnerable to credit card fraud. The term loosely applies to anyone stealing or misusing a credit card, and costs the industry over $1 billion a year. How can you prevent credit card fraud, and what should you do if your identity is stolen?
An ounce of prevention
Here are some tips on avoiding fraud.
- Check your billing statements for any inaccuracies. Some budgeting websites and software will send you a weekly digest of your transactions.
- Sign your credit cards as soon as they arrive
- Notify your credit card company in advance of a change in address
- Leave your credit card, statement or receipts lying around
- Respond to emails asking you for your credit card
- Give out your personal information unless you’re sure the other person can be trusted
- Give out your credit card number online unless the site is secure and reputable (secure websites start with https: rather than http:)
- Give out your credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the call and trust the other party
What to do if you’re a victim of credit card fraud
- Call your credit card company immediately to cancel the card. As soon as you make that call, you’re not liable for any charges on the card. In any case, your maximum liability is $50. This does not apply to all debit or prepaid cards. Keep a record of your conversations with the credit card company, and if necessary, follow up with them.
- Call the three major credit reporting agencies to tell them about the theft. That way, there’s less chance that a thief’s spending spree will hurt your credit score.
- TransUnion’s fraud victim assistance department: (800) 680-7289
- Equifax: (800) 525-6285
- Experian: (800) 301-7195
- Get a copy of your credit history to check for inaccuracies. You’re entitled to a free copy as a victim of identity theft.
- If necessary, file a report with the local police
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