If your credit card has been lost or stolen, or you notice any unauthorized charges on your monthly statement, you’ll need to act fast as you may be the victim of credit card fraud. Once your account has been compromised, quickly gather as much of your personal information as you can- account numbers, your social security number, bank logins, passwords, etc.- it’s time for damage control. Should you find yourself in this stressful situation, as calmly and swiftly as possible, consider these 5 steps to take immediately after credit card fraud.
1. Contact Your Credit Card Issuer ASAP
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to call your credit card company once you realize that fraudulent charges have been made using your credit card. The phone number to contact your card issuer can normally be found on the back of your card, but since it’s lost or stolen in this case, you can find that number on the issuer’s website. Once you inform your issuer of the situation, ask them to put a security freeze on your credit card account to prevent further damage until the new card they issue you arrives.
2. Issue Fraud Alerts and Report Identity Theft
After informing your credit card issuer about fraudulent activity on your credit card account, the next step to take is to contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and ask them to put a security freeze on your credit report as well. Also known as credit freezes, this prevents others from accessing your credit file and potentially destroying your credit score by opening multiple new accounts, performing numerous balance transfers, and making purchases in your name without permission. You should also notify the Federal Trade Commission of what’s going on and ask them to file an Identity Theft Affidavit, then contact your local law enforcement to file a police report. You can never be too safe.
3. Update Your Passwords and Verify Account Info EVERYWHERE
Your credit accounts aren’t the only things that can be affected when you notice credit card fraud. There’s a good likelihood that your debit card may be compromised as well, so after notifying the proper authorities, it’s time to update the logins to your pertinent financial accounts. Through your bank’s smartphone app or website, update your password if it hasn’t already been changed. Make sure you DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD AS BEFORE and DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD THAT YOU USE ANYWHERE ELSE. If you do either of those things and an unsavory character already has access to one of your accounts, they’ll have access to all of them. While you’re logged into your bank account, check your credit statement to see if any unauthorized charges have been made that you’ve not noticed and immediately report any more suspicious activity. This is also a good time to verify all of the personal information you have listed in your account profile and create alerts that will notify you via smartphone, email, or other means of ANY charges made using your debit cards or credit cards. It may seem overwhelming at first, but these notifications keep you keenly aware of everything going on with your accounts (based on parameters you set) and can help create awareness of your spending habits- a key component of household budget planning.
4. Update Recurring Payment Methods
Victims of identity theft may not think of it at first but putting security freezes on compromised credit cards normally used to make recurring payments can disrupt their monthly payment cycles. If you know that your card will be charged on the first of the month to cover a phone bill or utility payment, you wouldn’t want those services accidentally interrupted just because someone stole your credit card. In changing the payment methods for these recurring charges, you may even find a few subscription services that you no longer use and can cancel to put a few bucks back in your pocket.
5. Monitor Everything
With your mind on your money and your money on your mind following credit card fraud, you should also take the time to improve your security habits. As mentioned throughout the article, be sure to comb through the statements for your credit card and debit cards, check your credit report, and update passwords for all your accounts. While you’re at it, run antivirus programs on all of your internet-enabled devices just to be sure. Credit card fraud can affect you when you least suspect it, but acting fast and methodically by following some of the tips above can go a long way in helping you get back on your feet before you know it.