Did you know that 10 percent of Americans say they’ve been victims of credit card fraud? Though you can’t always prevent fraud from happening, there are ways to better protect yourself. Here are a few tips to help prevent credit card fraud and steps to take should you fall victim.
1. Always Remember to Properly Dispose of Your Credit Card Statements and Receipts
Not properly disposing of your credit card statements is one of the easiest ways thefts can occur. If a document has your credit card number on it, then it’s extremely important that you store it somewhere safe or dispose of it. Don’t leave your credit receipts around the house and be sure to rip or shred any credit-sensitive documents before throwing them away.
2. Review Your Statement Every Month
One of easiest ways to make sure your credit account is accurate and not a victim of fraud is to check your statement every month. Go over your credit transactions in detail and make a note of anything that looks suspicious or out of place.
In addition to reviewing your monthly statement, you’re also entitled to a free yearly credit report from each of the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). The best way to stop credit theft is to prevent it before it happens, so take advantage of your free credit reports and make it a habit to check your statement as often as possible.
3. Destroy Your Old Card as Soon as the New One Arrives
Having a credit card in limbo–meaning you’ve applied for a new card but still have your old one–can be an easy opportunity for potential thefts. Be sure to destroy your old card as soon as you have your new one in hand. In addition, if you own multiple credit and debit cards, make it a habit to keep some at home when you leave the house. The old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket is particularly true here: If you go out, only carry the credit or debit cards you need and leave the rest at home.
4. Make Sure a Website Is Secure Before You Make a Transaction Online
As a majority of today’s purchases are made online, it’s extremely important that you steer clear from malicious sites and remember to keep your various passwords and login info in a safe location. If you’re making a transaction through a public computer, make sure you effectively clear your login and password. Only make online purchases through trusted sites and avoid any spam sites or pop-up windows that ask for personal information.
5. Report Lost or Stolen Credit Cards Immediately
Whether you simply misplaced it or if you think it was stolen, it’s extremely important to report a lost credit card as soon as possible—that way you’ll be able to offset any fraudulent charges before they have a chance to occur. In the event that your credit card may have been stolen, here are a few steps you can take:
Fraud Alert – You can put a fraud alert on your credit card if you believe your card’s been stolen. A fraud alert on your credit card will let lenders know there’s a potential problem with your credit card, and they will take extra precaution when verifying your account. A fraud alert will last up to 90 days, though you can extend your alert by submitting an identity theft report from a law enforcement official.
Credit Freeze – In addition to a fraud alert, a credit freeze is another option. Although a freeze is more drastic, it’s a strong option if you know your card has been stolen and are worried about possible identity theft. A credit freeze literally freezes your credit report, meaning it prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing your data. Though a credit freeze can effectively ensure your financial security, it’s important to note that a freeze may also interfere with any current loan requests you have pending.
Although there is no one guaranteed way to prevent credit card fraud, consistently reviewing your credit report and staying on top of your day-to-day transactions will help you keep yourself in the know. For more information on credit card management, visit CreditGUARD’s credit counseling page.