By Laurel Nelson-Rowe | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
5 Min Read | June 26, 2020 in Cards
The FTC reports that credit card fraud is on the rise, but there are several things you can do to take back control of your credit.
The most important thing to do is report credit card fraud as soon as you suspect it, to your card company, local law enforcement, and the credit reporting agencies.
In addition to your account details, prepare to provide your card issuer with details of fraudulent transactions and proof that you didn’t make them.
Credit card fraud is serious business: “the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card to fraudulently obtain money or property,” according to the FBI.1 Credit card fraud is both a federal and state crime and can include:
Unfortunately, how to report credit card fraud is a question more people ask every year, as the volume and value of fraud increases annually. Federal Trade Commission data show 1.4 million fraud reports in 2018, including an 18% rise in credit card fraud to nearly 158,000. Moreover, 2018 saw a 24% surge in fraudulent new credit card accounts3—a sign of the increasing challenge of identity theft. The good news is, the sooner you act to report credit card fraud, the less likely you’ll encounter any serious ramifications—and the sooner you can regain control of your personal finances.
Experts say that if you detect unfamiliar charges on your monthly statement or get a bill for a credit card account you don’t recognize as your own, it’s time to report credit card fraud. It’s the key to removing fraudulent charges, closing unauthorized accounts, and reclaiming control of your credit. You’ll likely start by contacting your credit card company, either via its toll-free customer service line or web site.4 Be ready to provide:
Reporting credit card fraud to your card issuer generally triggers immediate action, which can help you bounce back quickly. The card company will likely suspend, reverse, or at least begin investigating the questionable charges. It may freeze or close the account, and provide a new card and account number.5 The goal is to stop, or at least limit, additional charges. Many credit card companies have “zero liability” policies, meaning you are not held responsible for fraudulent charges. By law, you’re liable for $50 in fraudulent charges before you report the credit card fraud, and none after.6
In addition to credit service providers, experts recommend reporting credit card fraud to your local police and government agencies. For the police, you can report fraud in-person at a nearby stationhouse, call the non-emergency police number, or via an online form, if available. In addition to your contact information and account information, you may be asked if the account is shared, if others have access, or if you know or suspect a specific fraudster.7 Police and federal authorities may use your information in larger fraud or identity theft investigations.8
Likewise, it’s also important to report credit card fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can call the agency toll-free to file a complaint or use its online Complaint Assistant site, which provides menu options, fillable forms, prompts, and online chat support to help you describe the details of your incident. You’ll be asked for the amounts of fraud charges, the circumstances, and your contact information. The FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website provides sample dispute letters for fraudulent credit card charges, among other tools. Your report to the FTC will be added to the agency’s database for statistical analyses, and could become part of other ongoing investigations.9
Next, it’s a good idea to report credit card fraud to the credit bureaus. Call or go online to alert the bureau of fraud details and place a fraud alert on your credit report. With a fraud or security alert in place, any transactions must be verified by you before processing, and new accounts in your name will be hard to open without your knowledge because you’ll be contacted any time an inquiry is made for your report. You may want to consider a freeze, which experts agree is the best defense against identity theft. For more, read “Should I Freeze My Credit? Survey Says …”
In more serious cases, you can request that an “extended fraud victim statement” be added to your credit report. It will prevent new accounts being opened in your name and requires that you pre-approve any credit transactions for seven years. You have to make an extended fraud statement request in writing, and will likely have to provide additional documentation.10 On the plus side, contacting one bureau triggers the other two major credit bureaus to add the statement as well.11
In general, experts suggest following these other steps to enhance your security when reporting credit card fraud:
The purchasing convenience and flexibility credit cards provide carries some risk, including that of identity theft and credit card fraud. Reporting credit card fraud to your credit card company as soon as possible can help you swiftly regain control of your personal finances and bounce back with confidence.
1 “Scams and Safety,” Federal Bureau of Investigation
2 “Credit Card Fraud,” FindLaw
3 “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018,” Federal Trade Commission
4 “What to do if you’re a victim of credit card fraud,” Credit Karma
5 “How Do Banks Investigate Unauthorized Transactions,” ClearSale
6 “Credit Card Fraud: What to Do If You’re a Victim,” Experian
7 “Suspect card fraud? How to file a claim,” CreditCards.com
8 “How to report and protect yourself against credit card fraud and identity theft,” CreditCards.com
9 “FTC Complaint Assistant,” Federal Trade Commission
10 “Credit Card Fraud: What to Do If You’re a Victim,” Experian
11 “Place a Fraud Alert,” Federal Trade Commission