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6 Steps for Handling Credit Card Fraud

If you pay your credit card bills every month without fully reviewing your statements, you could be missing signs of credit card fraud. Sometimes it’s a standalone crime, but many times it can be one of the early signs of identity theft. Either way, it’s important to spot it quickly and take action to remedy the situation. Here’s what to do if you notice unauthorized charges or other signs of credit card fraud:

Don’t Panic

While it’s never fun to discover unauthorized charges on your credit card, it’s not a catastrophe. Most banks and major card companies have a zero liability policy, meaning you will not be responsible to pay any of the fraudulent charges. And even if the card issuer doesn’t have a zero liability policy, you will not have to pay more than $50 thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act.    consumer discovering she's been the victim of credit card fraud

Call the Card Company

Call the credit card company immediately to let them know you see unauthorized charges on your account. They will want to the know the date and amount of the last purchase you remember making. Once they have that information, they’ll take over and begin to investigate the fraud. They will also cancel your current card and re-issue a new card with a new account number.

Check All Your Accounts

Check all your other cards, your bank account and other financial accounts for signs of fraud. Change all your account passwords and PINs to help thwart further fraudulent activity.

Initiate a Credit Freeze

Contact the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — to request a credit freeze. This protects your information and makes it practically impossible for criminals to open new lines of credit in your name. By law, the bureaus must offer the credit freeze service for free. Learn more about a credit freeze.

Alert the Authorities

If you determine the fraudulent charges are the result of identity theft, contact your local police department to file a report. Oftentimes, they will work alongside the credit card company to investigate the crime.

Additionally, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They offer assistance in developing a recovery plan for victims of identity theft.

Monitor Financial Statements & Credit Report

Pay close attention to all credit card, bank account and other financial statements for the next several months. Continue monitoring your credit report to look for errors. Hold on to accurate records of the dates you first noticed the fraud, and when you contacted your card issuer(s) so you have the information you need to dispute any lingering errors.

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