Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Deal with Credit Card Fraud - Part 1

I received a "Fraud Alert" email from Bank of America on Saturday night, letting me know that my credit card was declined at a Bed Bath & Beyond for a $25 charge. Hmmmmmmm...interesting. I was near a BB&B earlier that afternoon, but I sure as heck did not go into the store, nor did I attempt to make a $25 purchase. My card hasn't left my wallet in a week, so this is a little absurd. Okay, can i go back to the Bed Bath & Beyond thing? I mean seriously? That's what they stole my credit card information for? I'm kind of insulted! Anyways, stuff happens, so I figured it's a a great opportunity to blog about what to do in situations like this one.

1. Check the validity of the email/call: You don't want to compromise your accounts because you thought a fake fraud alert was real. There are scams where an email with a false link or phone number is sent out to alert people of suspicious activities on their credit card accounts. Then, when you use the contact information given to confirm this, the con artists will ask for sensitive information such as your social security number, account number, and date of birth in order to steal your identity. Don't let this happen!

Use a secured connection to check your account online (you should always use a secured connection to prevent identity theft). It'll indicate whether your card has be used fraudulently or not. Another way to check is to call your bank or the card company. Do this with the service number given on your bank statement or the one on the back of your card. Don't use the number given in the email. If the fraud alert is real, the service rep should be able to see a record of it and put you in touch with the correct department.

2. Call to see what happened: Did you lose your card? Has another authorized user charged it without your knowledge? Have you noticed anything suspicious when you used your card last? Some "secured buying" websites are not as safe as they claim to be. Do some investigating on your own, but also ask your credit card company to keep you up to date on their investigation of what happened. Follow up with them within a week or two.

3. Ask what steps should be taken: Ask the card company how they will deal with the incident. Will they issue you a new card? How will they investigate this and prevent it from happening again? Will they contact the authorities and the credit agencies? How will this affect your credit report/score? Incidents like this shouldn't negatively impact your credit, so make sure of that.

4. Don't let this disrupt your card balance: If the card company is issuing you a new card, how do you deal with your current balance? Will they move it to the new card? If you pay your bills online and the card has been taken off of your list of accounts be sure to work out something with the card company so you're not late on payments because of the transition.

5. Check to see if your computer, internet connection, or mobile connection has been compromised: You could have accidentally downloaded malware onto your computer. Malwares can assist in stealing passwords and other personal information you stored. If you suspect that this happened, do a virus/spyware scan (or even multiple scans with different software) on all of the computers you use regularly. Delete any malware found and set up secured connections and firewalls to prevent future security breach.

6. Check your statements regularly: While your card company will TRY to detect identity theft and fraudulent charges for you, they may not be able to find it every time. Monitoring your accounts closely is the best way to notice any irregularity. Report anything unusual quickly and dispute charges if you didn't make them.

I gotta tell you, getting that email was not fun, so I was very careful about how I dealt with it. I wanted to make sure that no further damage can be done by the thieves. Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? How did you deal with it?


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