Credit Card Fraud: What to do When Someone Steals Your Card Information

Credit Card Fraud: What to do When Someone Steals Your Card Information

Did you know that almost half of all Americans have been the victim of credit card fraud in the past 5 years? Whether its a skimmer at a gas station, an information breach from a large company, or someone simply stealing your credit card, it can wreak havoc on your life and finances.

A stolen credit card number can result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges, depending on how long it takes you to notice it has happened. This will also cost you time, as you contact your credit card companies to dispute the charges and order new cards.

If you don't catch it soon enough, it could ruin your credit, requiring work on your part to restore your good credit.

Keep reading for some steps to take when you experience credit card fraud.

What to Do When Someone Steals Your Credit Card

There are two ways your credit card information can be fraudulently used. Card present transactions happen when you lose your card or someone steals it. They can then use the card in person or online to make a purchase.

With a card-not-present transaction, your credit card number, PIN, and security code is stolen. This could be due to a skimmer, a data breach, or someone seeing your card number and stealing it. These are becoming more and more common and it's hard to find the criminals or even pinpoint how or where your information was stolen.

If you find that your credit card information has been stolen, here is what you should do. Acting quickly is important when you discover that you have been defrauded, so try to take these steps as soon as possible.

1. Contact Your Credit Card Company or Bank Immediately

As soon as you realize that your information has been compromised, contact the credit card company or your bank if it's a debit card. The good news is that you are not responsible for any fraudulent charges.

If someone uses your card before you report it, you can only be held responsible for $50 worth of fraudulent charges. If someone steals the number only and you still have the card in your possession, you're not responsible for any charges.

Your credit card company will make the stolen card inactive and then send you a new card with a new number.

2. Change your PIN and Online Passwords

Because you don't know where or how your information was stolen, particularly if you still have the card in your possession, you should change your online logins. Change your password for your bank and credit cards.

3. Monitor Your Account Activity

Even after you've notified your credit card company or bank, you'll want to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. You can also ask the credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your accounts.

This means that if anyone tries to open a new account, a notification would be provided to the card issuer that your information has been compromised. When this happens, the card issuer or another lender will undertake additional steps to verify your identity and make sure any new accounts are legitimate.

You can request a fraud alert from one of the credit bureaus and that one will notify the other two as well.

4. Consider a Credit Monitoring Service

Many companies that have been the victims of data breaches have offered impacted consumers free credit monitoring services. Credit monitoring tracks your credit reports and informs you if there is any suspicious activity.

You can also pay for credit monitoring yourself. Just do your research ahead of time to make sure that you are working with a reputable company.

Of course, you can (and should) monitor your credit yourself, a credit monitoring service can provide more immediate notifications than if you are doing it on your own.

5. Consider a Credit Freeze

In addition to a fraud alert, you can also place a credit freeze. This means that no one can access your credit report. What this does is ensure that no new credit accounts or loans can be opened in your name.

Federal law prohibits the credit bureaus from charging you for this, so it won't cost you anything to freeze your credit. You can leave the freeze on for as long as you like, and lift it once you feel that your accounts are no longer threatened.

How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud

The best thing to do is to take measures to protect yourself. Only shopping on sites that take extensive measures to protect e-commerce transactions is one place to start. These tips can help you and the online businesses you frequent protect credit card information.

You should also avoid storing your credit cards on online sites. Don't save your information, so if your account is compromised, fraudsters won't be able to make any purchases with a saved credit card.

If you ever have to give your credit card information over the phone, be sure you verify that you are talking to someone who is a trusted source. Further, always make sure that no one who can steal the information is in earshot.

The Bottom Line

Having your credit card stolen can be overwhelming. However, if you act fast, you can minimize the damage and recover quickly. Use these prevention tips to protect yourself, and if you do find yourself the victim of card fraud, take steps to stop it right away.

For more resources on finances and cybersecurity, check out some of our other blogs posts.

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