How to Handle Credit Card Fraud

You open your latest credit card statement and notice a charge at a large big box retailer. The problem? You don't remember shopping there and the charge doesn't look familiar.

Credit card fraud can happen to anyone, regardless of age, income level, or location. However, certain groups may be more at risk of falling victim to credit card fraud. For example:

  • Older individuals. Older people may be more at risk of credit card fraud due to a lack of familiarity with technology or a tendency to be more trusting.
  • Young people. In fact, younger people may be at an increased risk of credit card fraud due to a lack of experience with credit.
  • People with a large number of credit cards. People who carry lots of credit cards may be more at risk of credit card fraud, as they may have more accounts to keep track of and may be more likely to lose track of a card or have one stolen.
  • Frequent credit card users. People who use their credit cards frequently, such as for online shopping, may be more at risk of credit card fraud, as they may be more likely to encounter fraudulent websites or have their card information compromised.

It's important to note that no one is immune when it comes to credit card fraud, but taking steps to protect yourself can minimize the risk.

Is It Fraud or Forgetfulness?

If you spot a charge on your credit card statement that you don't recognize, keep calm and don't panic. Here are four initial steps to take:

1.    Check your statement against your receipts to see if the charge matches. Sometimes the charge may be correct but you simply don't remember making the purchase or the merchant uses a different name for their merchant services than their retail name.
2.    If you're unable to reconcile the charge, contact the merchant. They may be able to provide more information about the transaction. Their phone number may even be on your credit card statement.
3.    If you're unable to resolve the issue with the merchant or if you believe the charge is fraudulent, contact your credit card issuer to dispute the charge. They will typically have a process in place for you to follow to report the unauthorized or fraudulent charge so your account can be credited.
4.    Take additional steps to protect yourself from fraud, such as changing your account password or putting a fraud alert on your credit report.

If, when you call the merchant, you discover the charge is correct? Don't feel bad or embarrassed. The merchant will most likely be grateful you didn't dispute the charge with your credit card issuer, which would generate a chargeback fee they would have to pay. 

The bottom line: It's important to act quickly if you suspect fraudulent activity on your credit card, as the longer you wait, the harder it may be to resolve the issue.

When You're Positive It's Fraud

If you believe that a charge on your credit card is fraudulent, it's important to report it to your credit card issuer quickly. Most credit card issuers have fraud protection policies in place, which means that you will not be responsible for paying fraudulent charges that are reported in a timely fashion.

When you report a fraudulent charge to your credit card issuer (you can do so using the 800 number on the back of your card), they will typically investigate the charge and determine whether it is indeed fraudulent. If they determine that the charge is fraudulent, they'll remove it from your account and issue you a refund. While the fraud claim is being investigated, you will not have to pay the disputed amount.

In some cases, the credit card issuer may ask you to provide additional information or documentation to support your claim. They may also cancel your credit card and issue a new one to protect you from further fraudulent activity.

It's important to note that you may need to take additional steps to protect yourself from fraud, such as changing your account password or monitoring your credit report for any unusual activity. If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, you should also consider taking steps to protect yourself, such as freezing your credit or enrolling in a credit monitoring service.

Handling Fraudulent Charges on Your Debit Card

Some people use their debit cards like credit cards. However, debit cards are typically linked to a checking or savings account, whereas a credit card is linked to an open line of credit. This means that if you have fraudulent charges on your debit card, the money will be withdrawn directly from your bank account, rather than being charged to your credit line. That's money out of your pocket. Ouch!

Most financial institutions offer some level of protection against fraudulent charges on a debit card. For example, they may have fraud monitoring systems in place that can detect unusual activity on your account, or they may offer a service that allows you to set up alerts for certain types of transactions, such as the alerts that Hanscom FCU provides for account holders.

If you notice fraudulent charges on your debit card, you should contact your bank, credit union, or financial institution as fast as possible to minimize your own financial losses. As with credit cards, they'll have a process in place for you to follow to report the fraud and request a refund. In some cases, you may need to provide additional information or documentation to support your claim.

What Happens If You Don't Notice the Fraud Right Away?

If you don't notice fraudulent activity on your credit card right away, you may be at risk of losing a significant amount of money. This is because fraudulent charges can continue to accrue on your account until you report the fraud and have the charges removed. Keep in mind that card issuers also have time limits for reporting fraud. Noticing a fraudulent charge a year later will probably be a painful cost you'll have to absorb.

Since most credit card issuers have fraud protection policies in place, that means that you will not be responsible for paying fraudulent charges if you report them immediately. You should be able to get a refund for any fraudulent charges that have been made to your account.

This is why It's important to regularly review your credit card statements and monitor your account for any unusual activity. The sooner you report the fraud, the easier it will be to resolve it and protect yourself from additional losses.

Prevent Future Card Fraud

Once the victim of credit card fraud, you'll never want to be victimized again. Here are some steps to take to prevent credit card fraud in the future:

  1. Use strong and unique passwords. Strong, unique passwords make it hard for fraudsters to get access to your accounts.  Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
  2. Protect your personal information. Be stingy about sharing your personal information, such as your name, address, and credit card number, online or over the phone.
  3. Use secure websites. When making online purchases, be sure to use secure websites that have "https" in the URL and a padlock icon in the address bar.
  4. Monitor your accounts. Regularly review your credit card statements and monitor your accounts for any unusual activity.
  5. Get greedy with security features. Consider using security features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or a credit card with a chip, which can help protect you from fraud.
  6. Report new fraud the moment you spot it. If you suspect that your credit card has been compromised yet again, report it to your credit card issuer as soon as possible. They will typically have a process in place for you to follow to report the fraud and request a refund.

Follow these steps and keep your cards and your money safe!

 

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Hanscom Federal Credit Union
Hanscom Federal Credit Union

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