“This can’t be happening to me,” I thought to myself while listening to the voice on the other end of the phone line. My banker proceeded to say that someone had attempted to use my card in Pennsylvania to purchase gas and clothing.
I thanked him for taking care of everything and getting a new card issued for me and for the next 24 hours I went through this same process with all of my credit and debit cards.
This reminded me that no matter how careful we think we are, credit and debit card fraud as well as identity theft can happen to anyone at any time but especially during the holiday season. We tend to be spending more money and paying less attention to our statements.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Credit and Debit Card Fraud
REDUCE THE NUMBER OF CARDS YOU HAVE IN YOUR WALLET
Many credit and debit cards are enabled with RFID technology that allows you to pay wirelessly. Thieves can take advantage of this technology and read your card data simply by getting close to you. They can scan this data through your purse, wallet or clothing and use it to make a copy of your credit and debit card. There are many protective card cases on the market to prevent this type of hacking and fraud.
REVIEW YOUR STATEMENTS
This tip may seem obvious, but keep your eyes open for transactions that you didn’t make. In my case this included a transaction for $0.00. The thieves used this transaction to verify that the fraudulent card “worked” and from there they went shopping.
USE SECURE SITES WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE
Make sure the website address starts with https and not just http to insure that the website is indeed secure. Type the address in yourself to make sure you are on the retailer’s website and never click on a link sent in an email.
So let’s say you’ve done everything you can and the bad guys still get your financial information.
What do you do next?
Take Action and Make Necessary Contacts
- If you notice a suspicious charge on one of your accounts, contact the financial institution immediately! The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides liability limits for lost, stolen or compromised debit cards as long as you report it right away!
- Make sure the bank or credit card company locks or closes the account and issues you replacement cards right away.
- Go to www.consumer.gov and complete an identity theft affidavit.
- Contact the police and file a police report. Even if the police state you do not need to do this, make sure you do. Get at least four copies of the police report. You may need the police report to file a fraud claim with your credit card issuer or bank.
- Get a copy of your Experian, Equifax and Transunion credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com and check them for fraudulent activity. Place a fraud alert on your credit file.
- Place a credit freeze on your credit reports. A credit freeze will prevent anyone from opening a new line of credit in your name. It will also prevent you from opening a new line of credit unless you lift the freeze. Credit freezes and thaws are free and typically take a day or two, so plan ahead if you plan to open a new line of credit after freezing your credit.
If you have questions about credit, identity theft or credit freezes, call LSS Financial Counseling at 888-577-2227. We have experienced financial counselors who know a lot about identity theft and what to do if you’re a victim. Some of us even have firsthand experience with bank card fraud and identity theft. (You can add me to that list now, too, unfortunately.)
Author Chad Larimer is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.