It’s a story that plays out thousands of times a day in America, someone logs into their credit card account and sees a bunch of charges that they never made, possibly coming from overseas. Similarly, customers might get a call regarding unusual activity on their credit card only to discover that someone is using their card number to go on a shopping spree. In either case, credit card companies are usually pretty good about making you not liable for the charges. However, the problem still remains: how did a thief get your card information in the first place?
Disputing Fraudulent Credit Card Charges
Contacting your credit card provider’s 24-hour customer service number is a good place to start once you’ve found out you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud. Most likely, they will get you started with the process of pointing out exactly which charges were unauthorized and which ones were actually yours. If your credit card is issued through a bank, you may need to step in to a local branch and fill out some paperwork.
Often, your credit card issuer will close your current account and open a new one with the same balance (less the fraudulent charges) in order to issue you a new card. While this has caused issues regarding average account age and age of the oldest account in the past, credit card companies have done much better with making sure these aspects of your credit score remain intact. They will usually open a new tradeline on your credit report and copy over your opening date/payment history from your (now) closed account.
Financeography Tip: Checking your actual credit score through Credit Sesame is completely free and only takes about 3 minutes.
Battling an Identity Theft Situation
Credit card information that was obtained because of a one-time breach in security at a retailer will usually not have any long-term effects on your credit. It’s annoying to have to cancel your card and get a new one issues, but there is little that can be done with your name, address, and an old credit card number that not longer works. It’s always a good idea to be extra vigilant regarding your credit report and credit score if this happens, but you will likely be alright as far as more personal information goes.
Credit card information getting out can be dangerous, but usually not as dangerous as your Social Security number being leaked. With credit cards, you will be aware of whatever damage is done within 30 days – whenever you get your next statement. If your SSN has been compromised and you aren’t keeping an eye on your credit, the damage could take years to manifest itself. This is why it is extremely important to check your credit reports regularly either via the government’s AnnualCreditReport.com website – one free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies a year – or by signing up for a credit monitoring service like Identity Guard – credit report and credit scores from all 3 credit reporting agencies, credit report monitoring, ID verification, $1 million identity theft insurance, etc.
Tips to Keep Your Credit Card Information Safe
- Keep online shopping to reputable retailers (Name-brand stores, Paypal/BBB accredited websites, places with a physical location)
- Destroy physical copies of credit card authorization forms once you’re done with them.
- Setup email alerts for purchases over a certain dollar amount.
- Look for broken seals on the credit card terminal on gas pumps – these are frequently targeted by credit card thieves.