How to Handle Credit Card Fraud As a Consumer
Credit card fraud is the most common type of identity theft, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There were 133,015 reports filed in 2017. It’s a bigger problem for American consumers than tax-related fraud or unemployment fraud.
Incidents of credit card fraud rose 23% in 2017, as compared to 2016. Consumers lost $905 million cumulatively, which is 21.6% higher than losses in 2016. Credit card fraud cost its average victim $429.
Seniors and children under the age of 19 are at the highest risk of credit card fraud. Experian reports that of the 25,000-30,000 fraud cases reported last year, 17% of victims were children. The FTC states that 35% of fraud complaints came from seniors.
Consumers who find errors on their credit reports should be aware that they may be the victim of identity theft. Sometimes, credit card accounts are mistakenly merged by the credit card company or are reported to the wrong credit file because someone entered information incorrectly. Whether the mistake is due to human error or fraud, it’s important to contact the issuing company to report the incident as soon as possible.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides consumers with certain rights requiring the credit card company to investigate suspected fraudulent activity. The fraud department should be able to provide the victim with a copy of the credit card application that opened the account upon request.
It’s important to send a dispute letter, as recommended by the FTC, to have incorrect or fraudulent information removed from the credit file. The Federal Trade Commission also provides regulations that protect consumers from financial responsibility resulting from fraudulent new accounts opened without permission.
The credit card company has 30 days to investigate the fraudulent account and delete it from the credit file. People who experience identity theft should follow up by watching their credit reports to make sure that the account in question is removed within the time limit.
When a consumer requests a fraud alert from one of the three credit reporting bureaus, that agency is required by law to communicate the request to the other two credit bureaus. A fraud alert lasts 90 days and it’s free. An extended fraud alert is effective for seven years and requires businesses who want to access the consumer’s credit file to verify the identity of the person requesting new credit.
It’s crucial that anyone who believes they are a victim of identity theft contact the FTC and file an identity theft report. This step is mandatory if the consumer wants to place an extended fraud alert in each of their three credit files.
Whether identity theft and credit card fraud is a concern or not, everyone should regularly review credit card statements. With paperless billing, it’s easy to overlook the necessity of a line-by-line verification that each charge is accurate. Many credit card companies also provide security services like transaction alerts and credit monitoring to help catch unauthorized activity.
To file an identity theft report, visit www.identitytheft.gov. Submit a copy of the report to the local police department, as well. This will help prove that information was stolen and used without the owner’s permission, if necessary.
Everyone with a Social Security number has the right, by law, to see their full credit report once every 12 months at no charge. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to start the process.