You sit down to leisurely review your credit card transactions. You’re halfway down the list, thinking of how boring this is, and asking yourself why you even bother. Suddenly, your eyes latch onto a transaction you don’t recognize. $9.99 to what company? You don’t recognize the next transaction either, this one for $69.99. What’s going on?! It dawns on you that someone has stolen your credit card information, and is now making purchases at your expense. What do you do?

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The Threat

You don’t need me to tell you that credit card fraud is a big problem, especially if you’ve been a victim. But just to hammer the point home, let me share a few stats with you.

According to Experian,

the number of credit card numbers exposed in 2017 totaled 14.2 million, up 88% over 2016.

More than 32% of Americans complained about credit card fraud in 2016, double the rate from 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

According to Credit.com,

According to the 2016 Consumer Card Fraud Study from ACI Worldwide and Aite Group, nearly one-third of consumers have experienced card fraud in the past five years, and 17% of credit card and debit cardholders say they’ve fallen victim multiple times in that timeframe.

Comparitech.com collected stats, including the following:

The FTC received over 133,000 credit card fraud reports in 2017.

“Card-not-present fraud” is far more prevalent than traditional credit card fraud. Thanks to the increasing popularity of online shopping, card-not-present fraud is now 81 percent more common than point-of-sale credit card fraud.

When you contact your credit card company, they will investigate the fraudulent transactions for you. However, they may not give you all the help you need in defending yourself digitally.

How to Increase Your Security

I don’t mean for this post to cover everything you should do if you’re the victim of fraudulent charges. I’ll provide broader resources later. This post is about the digital aspects of recovering from, and protecting against, credit card fraud.

First, change the password of your account with the credit card issuer. This could be a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. Also change your security questions, PIN(s), and any other details that a person could use to gain access to your account. See if your account offers any additional forms of security that you can activate, such as two-factor authentication.

Second, change the password of any accounts with the merchant (seller) that sold the items. For example, if the fraudulent purchases were from Amazon, change the password of your Amazon account. Also change your security questions and any other details that a person could use to gain access to your account. See if your account offers any additional forms of security that you can activate, such as two-factor authentication. Your credit card company should contact the merchant about the fraudulent transactions, but feel free to contact the merchant yourself.

Third, think hard about whether you have any accounts that may have been used to steal your credit card info. Maybe an employee of one of those companies stole your info, or maybe someone outside the company breached the company’s servers to get your data. If there are any accounts you suspect, change your passwords, security questions, and any other details that a person could use to gain access to your account. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the suspected companies about your concerns.

Fourth, log into any accounts that you think may have been used to place the orders. Look through the order history (which may be labelled orders, transactions, billing, or something else). See if there are any orders you didn’t place. If there are, report them, and repeat the steps above for any affected accounts.

Don’t wait until your monthly credit card statement arrives to review your transactions. Use Mint.com or one of the alternatives to regularly review all your financial transactions (I review mine weekly). The sooner you catch fraudulent transactions, the better.

Further Reading

Broader articles that include other steps you should take if you’re the victim of fraudulent charges:

What You Should Do

  1. For your account with the credit card company, change your password, security questions, PIN(s), and any other details that a person could use to gain access to your account. Activate any available additional forms of security, such as two-factor authentication.
  2. Repeat step 1 for any accounts with the merchant (seller) that sold the items.
  3. Repeat step 1 for any other accounts that you suspect may have been involved in the fraudulent transactions.
  4. Review your order history for any accounts that you think may have been used to place the orders.
  5. Review your credit card transactions more often than monthly (I recommend weekly).

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