We're sorry that's happened to you. Unfortunately, about 4 out of 10 US cardholders report having had the same nerve-wracking experience as you. Identity theft and credit card fraud have been on the rise in recent years, thanks to the growing horde of hackers who are smarter and more capable than ever. All hope is not lost, though. With time and patience—and the steps below—you can secure your accounts and credit information, and get back your peace of mind.
Step 1. Call the Credit Card Company
This is the very first step to take (so kudos on acting quickly). In some cases, your liability for fraudulent charges depends on how soon you report them to the bank. Besides that, the sooner you notify the bank, the quicker they can start working on your case and getting this resolved.
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During the investigation, the credit card company will usually reverse the charges (so you won't have to pay for some stranger's $5000 shopping spree on your billing statement). They should also issue you a new card (with a new account number) and close the old one so further fraudulent charges can't be made to it.
When you get your new card, remember to update any accounts where the card is used for automatic or recurring billing.
This process should only take a couple of days (sometimes just one day waiting for the new card), but in some cases it could take a month to resolve.
Step 2. Monitor Your Credit Card Accounts
In most cases, putting a stop to the charges and getting a new account number are all you need to do, but you should also monitor all your credit card accounts just in case this is more than just a singular event or a sign of even more damaging identity theft.
To monitor your accounts, you just need to keep an eye on your statements or regularly check recent activity. Be especially on the lookout for even small charges. Fraudsters know that amounts under $10—like the recent $9.84 scam —often go unnoticed.
There are also other easy ways to stay vigilant, long after your credit card fraud case is resolved:
- Set up activity alerts on your accounts. Most bank and credit card online accounts let you set text or email alerts for all kinds of activity, such as charges over a certain limit. Use free financial tracking apps. Previously mentioned BillGuard watches for charges flagged by other BillGuard members, and notifies you if your card(s) have similar ones; it also now tracks your finances, Mint-like. Speaking of Mint, the financial tracking app can also alert you to unusual activity on your
accounts. If you usually only spend $50 a week on shopping, for example, Mint will let you know if a charge greatly exceeds that. (If you're—understandably—concerned about security for these credit card and bank tracking services, know that both use bank-level encryption and only have read-access to your account activity, so money transfers and changes to your account aren't possible even if someone could hack into one of those accounts.) Use free credit monitoring services. Previously mentioned Credit Karma and Credit Sesame keep an eye on not just your credit score, but also new credit inquiries and balance changes. (Credit Sesame's report is from Experian, while Credit Karma provides scores from TransUnion.)
Step 3. Know the Signs of Bigger Identity Theft—and What to Do If Someone's Stolen Your Identity
Fraudulent charges on your credit card don't necessarily mean a data thief also has access to other personal information that could do more damage, like drawing down your bank account or social security fraud, but it still pays to know how identity theft works so you don't end up with even bigger issues.
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Even more debilitating identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information (which can include your credit card number) to not just make charges, but also perhaps open other financial accounts, get government documents, and/or otherwise impersonate you for their benefit. It's even less funny than the Jason Bateman movie Identity Thief and can be terribly expensive and trying to repair.
(If there's any silver lining to your credit card fraud experience, it may be that kick in the butt to check if any of your other information is compromised. According to Daily Finance. most people don't spot identity theft on their own; most of the time, financial institutions notify the victims. 20 percent of people do find it after spotting fraudulent charges on their statements, but only 8 percent of other identity theft victims discover the fraud themselves.)
Besides suspicious credit card charges, identity theft red flags include: withdrawals from your bank account that don't make sense, applications for credit or other accounts being turned down, collection notices for debts that aren't yours, and unfamiliar accounts on your credit report (which you can check for free every year at annualcreditreport.com ). See a whole list of red flags at the Identity Theft Resource Center .
If you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft, in addition to contacting your credit card about fraudulent charges and monitoring your credit card and bank accounts, you should take action to correct the problems immediately :
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