It’s not something most of us want to think about, but credit card theft and fraud is a real risk in today’s digital world. Whatever security measures card issuers and financial institutions take, thieves are constantly working to find ways to get around them.
Monitoring services can help you stay on top of unusual charges, but they can’t prevent someone from stealing your information. That means you must know what to do if your information is stolen – including knowing when and how to report credit card fraud.
With that in mind, here are five ways to report credit card fraud and get your credit back on track.
#1: Call the Credit Card Issuer
The first step you should take to report credit card fraud is a phone call to the financial institution that issued your credit card. Alerting them will allow them to place your credit on hold.
The usual procedure is that once you notify the card issuer that the card has been compromised, they’ll lock the account. They’ll walk you through recent charges, so you can identify those that are fraudulent. Then, they’ll notify the merchants involved and reverse the charges.
In some cases, you’ll be responsible for a maximum of $50 of fraudulent charges. That’s why it’s essential to call the card issuer as soon as possible. Make sure to keep the contact number (which you can find on the back of the card) in a safe place separate from your card. Keeping a copy of the front and back of your card is a simple solution.
#2: Call the Major Credit Bureaus
The next step is to call one of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. This step is essential because it will prevent the thief from applying for new accounts using your identity.
The three main bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Keep in mind that you are only required to call one of these three bureaus. By law, any bureau you contact is required to contact the other two within 24 hours. You may want to call all three, but that’s up to you.
In addition to a fraud alert, you may want to ask the credit bureaus to freeze your report. That’s a more restrictive option that could affect your ability to apply for credit. However, you may want the peace of mind knowing your credit score won’t be affected by the breach. You may have to pay a small fee, but it’s usually free if you can prove you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
#3: File a Police Report
Even if you suspect that your credit card information was stolen online – through a phishing attack or data breach – you should still go make a police report with the local police.
The written report you file serves as a record of the crime. The police should give you a copy for your records. You may need it to file claims and restore your identity, so don’t skip this step.
Keep in mind that you can call the police first, but unless there is a crime scene to investigate – for example, if a thief broke into your apartment and stole your wallet – it’s unlikely they’ll come to you. You’ll need to go to the station and make a report in person.
#4: File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
The fourth way to report credit card fraud is to file an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) so they’re aware of the crime.
The FTC is responsible for handling complaints from victims of identity theft. They can provide you with valuable information. They also refer complaints to the credit agencies and law enforcement; and, if needed, they can refer you to other government agencies.
You can file your online complaint here.
#5: Notify Other Institutions as Needed
The final thing you should do is notify any other financial institutions if you feel that it’s necessary to do so. For example, if your identity has been stolen, you may need to:
- Close your bank account and open a new one
- Get a new driver’s license or ID
- Notify other creditors to put a fraud alert on your account
- In cases of identity theft, notify the Social Security Administration
Taking these steps provides you with the maximum protection going forward. Keep in mind that you may need to provide these institutions with a copy of your police report and other information as needed.
Nobody wants to be a victim of credit card fraud. But, if it happens to you, following these five steps can help you minimize the damage to your finances and credit.
All of CFE’s Visa credit cards are secured with Visa’s Zero Liability fraud protection as well as Visa purchase alerts. You’ll get real-time alerts whenever a purchase meets the criteria you selected during enrollment – whether that’s reaching a purchase amount threshold, international purchases, or purchases made on the internet or over the phone. Learn more about the security measures of our Visa credit cards and how to apply here.