Credit card fraud is every consumer's nightmare. Unexpected and unauthorized charges or transactions suddenly appearing on your credit statements can create a sense of panic. Fortunately, if you act promptly and follow three key steps to report the known or suspected fraud, you can begin to regain your peace of mind and restore your financial well-being.
The immediate priority is to restrict access to any outsiders that hacked into your account. This should only take a few minutes of your time and is the first step that you should take. Change your password or PIN codes so that they won't be accessible to anyone but you.
When the fraud is reported, you will likely be asked if you have done this by the customer service representative who takes your call. Being able to confirm that it has been done will demonstrate that you have already taken a proactive role in resolving the situation.
Make the Call
Within minutes of updating your passwords or PINs, you should locate the toll-free customer support number for your credit card issuer. When you call:
- Explain that you have discovered unauthorized transactions on your account and would like to report a case of suspected fraud.
- It is routine that the representative will ask if you have any other authorized users or any joint account holders on the account who could have made the charges. If this is not the issue, or if no other authorized user initiated the transaction, the representative will ask you questions and proceed to file your claim.
- Recording details such as the date of the charge, what was purchased and where, and other pertinent details will open an investigation into the fraud.
- Many creditors today have a zero liability policy in such situations. Before ending the call and filing your report, the representative will deactivate your compromised credit card and issue a new one with a new number and security code via expedited mail.
- As the investigation ensues, you should start seeing the fraudulent costs deleted from your account.
According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, unauthorized charges, including those due to hacking or phishing scams, must be reported within 60 days of the date the transaction was made to ensure that you are not liable for any of the fraudulent charges.
In the event that your physical credit card was stolen from you and used without your permission before you discovered the theft, you can't be held responsible for more than $50 of the costs of each transaction.
Document and Monitor
Once you've reported the fraud, your job isn't done. You'll want to document the details and monitor your accounts.
Keep a record of all communication that occurs during the investigation with your credit card company, any credit bureaus, or any law enforcement authorities. Write down the date and time of each contact, the name of the person you spoke with, and the company or department they represent.
This will create a timeline of events from the moment you discovered the security breach in your credit account to when the issue was resolved. This information may be helpful if a statement is required from you in a possible legal proceeding if the thieves are caught and prosecuted.
Watch Your Accounts
Maintain a close watch on your accounts while you await the resolution of your case. Beware of new credit accounts or cards being issued in your name that you didn't open or any new suspicious charges. Promptly report any unauthorized activity using the steps above.
As an extra measure of protection, you may want to place a security alert on your credit file with one of the three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). The bureau that you contact will also notify the other two, so you won't have to call them all.
Get Back to Your Life
Credit card fraud can be scary, but you can take the necessary steps to report it and get the situation under control. Knowing what to do in the event that credit card fraud happens to you can help you quickly get your life back to normal.