Credit fraud continues to be a costly problem in the U.S., resulting in billions of dollars in losses shared by credit card issuers and store merchants. We may never be able to stop credit card fraud completely, but you can do some things to protect your credit card accounts.
Check Your Credit Card Account Activity
If you discover something strange on any of your accounts that ends up being a sign of theft or fraud, the sooner you find it, the better. It’s important to check your accounts regularly to make sure there’s no activity you don’t recognize or charges you didn’t make. Online access makes it easier than ever to keep an eye on your account activity.
Create Secure Passwords and Update Them Regularly
Secure passwords go a long way toward helping keep your credit card accounts safe from fraud and identity theft. Create passwords with a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols to make them more difficult for potential hackers to figure out. Changing passwords regularly, such as once every few months, can also help prevent fraud.
Order a New Card If You Suspect Fraud
Call your credit card company and request a replacement card if you learn of a security breach at a store where you shop regularly or if you have some other reason to believe your card information may have been compromised. The same goes for lost or stolen cards. The quicker you act, the sooner a credit card company can work to prevent fraud on your accounts and future damage to your credit score.
Be Careful About Giving Out Card Information
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with your credit card company, don’t give them your card or password information. Ask to call them back instead, then look for the card company’s phone number on your credit card statement or on the company’s official website. Don’t accept a number given to you by the caller as legitimate. Call your card issuer to find out who contacted you and why. The same applies to emails you may receive asking for card information. Most companies don’t ask for information from consumers via email.
Check Your Credit Report on a Regular Basis
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – each year. Ordering a credit report from one of the bureaus every four months can help you identify suspicious activity, such as an account you didn’t open or credit inquiries made when it wasn’t actually you who applied for a line of credit.
Place a Credit Report Security Freeze
If you believe your identity may have been stolen, consider placing a security freeze on your credit report, which prevents businesses and other people from viewing it. Because most credit applications require a credit check, a security freeze can prevent thieves from taking out a line of credit in your name. You must freeze your credit report at each credit bureau separately. TransUnion offers TU Credit Lock, a tool for its members that allows you to easily lock and unlock your TransUnion credit report from your smartphone – very similar to placing a credit freeze. Simply unlock your credit report with the swipe of your finger when applying for a line of credit.
Just like with any sensitive financial information, it’s important to take steps to protect your credit both online and in-person. The most essential step is awareness, as tracking your credit and personal finances will help spot any red flags on your accounts.