If you have carried a credit card for more than a few years, you’ve probably dealt with fraud at least once or twice. There are many levels of theft, whether it’s a single erroneous charge or someone hijacking all of your accounts at once. No matter the depth of the fraud, though, it is still impactful to both your finances and your time.
So, if you notice or are alerted to suspicious activity on your credit card, what are the steps you need to take to correct the fraud? And what should you do to prevent it from happening again?
Here are the five steps you should take if you notice fraudulent activity on your credit card account(s), and why.
Check Your Activity
You should be scanning your debit and credit card transactions regularly, even if you rarely use the card or feel like you stay on top of the statements. It’s easy for an erroneous charge to slip through the cracks if you’re not paying attention. Plus, after a specific period of time, you’re responsible for that transaction even if it was fraudulent.
Make it a habit to check your transactions every week, or at least once a month. Keep receipts and check against them if you need to, and utilize easy mobile apps to see account activity on the go. If you see anything that’s out of place, sound the alarm as soon as possible.
If you find fraudulent activity on one account, be sure to watch your other accounts for it, too. This is important, in case all of your financial activity was compromised at the same time.
Notify Your Issuer
Sometimes, your credit card issuer will be the one to alert you to suspicious charges. Whether it’s activity that doesn’t match your pattern, out-of-state transactions, or just a high charge amount, their system will often pick up on fraud.
If you’re the one to catch the fraud instead, be sure to notify your credit card company immediately. By doing so, you can begin the reporting process, stop additional charges from being made, and replace your account number/card as quickly as possible.
You can often do this from your issuer’s mobile app or just by calling the number on the back of your card.
Check Your Credit Report
Even if the fraudulent charge seems isolated, it’s still wise to check your credit report for any changes. You should not only check today, though – you should continue monitoring for any suspicious activity for the next couple of months, just to be sure that additional accounts weren’t compromised.
You can check your credit reports annually through AnnualCreditReport.com (the only government-approved website for obtaining your free annual full reports from each of the three bureaus). You can also monitor all three of your reports through a free service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
Many of these free monitoring sites will also offer you complimentary alerts. So, If there are new accounts opened in your name, inquiries made on your reports, or strange activity that pops up, you’ll know.
Place a Freeze and Alerts
Thanks to a recent law, you can now freeze and unfreeze your credit reports at any time, free of charge. This will block anyone with your personal information from opening new accounts in your name.
When you want to apply for a new financial product, simply unfreeze your credit reports. Once the account is open, refreeze them to continue protecting yourself.
You can also set up free credit alerts for a year at a time. This way, if someone even tries to open an account in your name, you will get a notification – even though they will be unsuccessful.
Change Other Passwords
Your fraudulent activity may seem isolated (and I hope it is!). However, you don’t really know how someone acquired your information – unless you lost your credit card somewhere – or what else they know. It’s wise to go ahead and change other passwords and account access tools, just to be sure.
Changing your email passwords is a must, at the very least. Since our email is often where we get credit alerts and account notifications, and is used for other accounts’ recovery/access, it’s important to keep that secure. By changing your email address’ password anytime you have any suspicious financial activity pop up, you’ll ensure that you’re further protected.
By being aggressive with your reaction, you can stop additional fraud from happening. And depending on who has what information of yours, a proactive approach might just save your credit from being destroyed in the future.