Tips to Protect Yourself
Credit card fraud can happen to anyone. Approximately 41% of Americans have been victims of fraud within the past five years according to a Global Consumer Fraud Report conducted by ACI Worldwide. However, taking common-sense precautions can reduce your chances of it affecting you:
Don’t leave your card lying around where others can see or get to it, including in your office, in your car or in a coat pocket you leave at a coat check.
Don’t lend your card to anyone. If you want someone else to be authorized to use your account, make those arrangements through your card issuer.
Shred receipts and statements that contain your card information before you toss them.
Don’t give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you’ve never done business with the caller before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints. The same applies to online purchases.
Keep your card in sight during transactions whenever possible. If it’s not possible—such as at a restaurant, where the waiter takes your card and returns with a slip for you to sign—check to see that it’s your card that was returned to you.
Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
Be prepared in case your card is lost or stolen. Keep your card issuer’s name, the phone number to report fraud and your account number in a secure location, separate from the wallet or purse where you carry your card.
Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you’ll be traveling.
If you’re deployed, place a free “Active Duty alert” on your credit report to minimize the risk of identity theft while you’re away. These alerts are in effect for 12 months.
Monitor Card Activity
Reviewing your credit card statements as soon as you receive them serves as an important safeguard against fraud. Or, better yet, regularly check your account using online or mobile banking. Check that you made each transaction listed and that the amount matches your receipt.
Watch especially closely for charges of less than one or two dollars from unfamiliar companies. Thieves who are planning to purchase a block of stolen credit card numbers often first test to check that the accounts haven't been canceled by sending a small charge through, sometimes for only a few cents. If the first charge succeeds, they'll buy the stolen data and make a much larger charge or purchase. They're guessing that most cardholders won't notice such a tiny charge, and they’re often correct. In addition, many of the fraud alerts you can set on your accounts aren't triggered by small dollar amounts.
If you find any discrepancies, follow the instructions on your bill or in your online account for questioning or disputing charges. Don’t send a note with your payment; a separate department usually handles disputes.
How do you know if you’ve been targeted with credit card fraud? These red flags may clue you in.
Unauthorized charges. You see charges on your credit card bill that you didn’t make or for amounts that you didn’t authorize.
Card missing. Any time your credit card is lost or stolen, there is a potential for fraud.
You’re denied credit. You believe your credit history is good, yet you’re denied credit.
Statement doesn’t arrive. You receive credit card statements by mail, but your statement doesn’t show up within a few days of its usual arrival date.
Collection calls. You receive calls from a collection agency or a creditor trying to collect a debt you don’t believe is yours.
Lost or Stolen Cards
If you lose your credit card or think it has been stolen, you should notify your bank or credit union immediately to block the card from being used. Your issuer should provide you with a toll-free number you can call 24 hours a day. Navy Federal members can call 1-888-842-6328 or collect internationally at 703-205-8837. Here is what else you should do if you think you’re a victim of fraud:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. Ask one of the three credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—to put a fraud alert on your credit report. They must tell the other two companies. A fraud alert notifies potential creditors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name in case someone is using your information without your consent. The alert lasts 90 days and can be renewed. It’s free, but you must provide proof of your identity.
- Report to local law enforcement. File a police report about the fraud.
- Follow up. Check that your credit card issuer and the credit bureaus received everything you sent them and that they took the actions to which they agreed. Several months after you think the fraud has been cleared, review your credit reports to confirm it.
- File it. Keep all notes and correspondence in case they’re needed in the future.
If you locate your misplaced credit card after reporting it lost or stolen and your card issuer blocked it, cut up or shred the card and dispose of it. Use the replacement card your issuer sends.
Think about how you can better keep track of your card in the future. If you routinely carry more than one or two credit cards, consider designating a secure spot at home where you store cards you won’t need each time you leave home.
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