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Steps to Take After Spotting Credit Card Fraud

Being a victim of credit card fraud can be a devastating experience. Resolving it can take time, diligence, and quite an emotional toll. Representation from an experienced Florida credit card fraud attorney can make a difference. 

Steps to Take After Spotting Credit Card Fraud

What is Credit Card Fraud?

Credit card fraud is not an uncommon occurrence. The Legal Information Institute(LII) at Cornell Law defines credit card fraud as a type of identity theft when someone obtains another’s credit card information and uses it to make purchases or otherwise withdraw money from the account. According to the LII, this usually happens in two ways: application fraud and account takeover. 

Application fraud happens when someone manages to obtain enough personal information to fill out a credit card application and open a new card in the victim’s name. They will typically withdraw large amounts of cash on this card, leaving the victim to pay off the debts. 

Account takeovers are when the credit card thief gains access to an existing account and card information. They will frequently change the password and the billing address, report the card as stolen, and receive a new one to use. 

5 Things To Do After Identifying Credit Card Fraud

Once you have determined that there are fraudulent charges on your account or that someone opened a new account without your authorization, you must act quickly to prevent further fraud. You can do this by doing a few things.

Change Your Passwords

As soon as you see that your information has been compromised, it may help if you take a moment to change the passwords to your accounts. Ideally, this will be a new password and not a repeat or variation of the previous one because it will make it easier to steal your identity in the future. The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency advises that passwords should be:

  • Long: At least 16 letters
  • Random: Get creative with memorable characters and spelling
  • Unique: Each account should have a different password

Sticking to these guidelines may help you avoid having your password stolen in the future.

Contact Your Credit Card Company

You should notify your credit card company or bank when you become aware of fraudulent charges. Typically, they can review your recent purchases once you call to ensure you have identified all fraudulent activity. They can close that current card and send you a new one, meaning no one can use the physical card or the card number associated with the fraudulent activity on the account.

If you are experiencing reluctance or hesitation from your credit card company to close the fraudulent accounts, you should contact their fraud prevention departments. They may want the request in writing, in which case the FTC has this identity theft dispute letter template to use. 

Contact Credit Reporting Agencies

After calling your bank, you need to contact credit reporting agencies to get a credit freeze. The three main reporting bureaus are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Per the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB), the agencies have one day to complete the freeze if it is done online or by phone. If you decide to mail the request, it can take up to three days. If you need to unfreeze your credit for any reason, like trying to open a credit card or applying for a mortgage or car loan, you can call the reporting bureaus and have them unfreeze it. 

The agencies have one hour to lift a freeze when requested by phone or online and up to three days if requested by mail. When you make the request, you can also demand that your accounts be frozen again in a certain amount of time. For example, if you are shopping for a car and know you will purchase within the next week, you can set it to close out again when your purchase is finalized. 

You can put a fraud alert on your accounts in addition to the credit freeze. With a fraud alert on your account, businesses are notified to check with you before opening new lines of credit. This is good for one year and can be renewed as needed and requested. 

Get Fraudulent Reports Removed From Your Credit Report

Having charges removed from your credit report is known as blocking. You can do this by filing a request with credit reporting companies. You will need to submit:

  • Identity Theft Report
  • Proof of identity
  • A letter identifying fraudulent information on the credit report

Once this information is received, the reporting agencies have four business days to block these transactions. This is only allowed for fraudulent transactions. 

File a Report

The next step to covering yourself if you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud is to create an official record. Your complaint with the banks and credit reporting agencies is a start, but it’s also essential to file an official report with the police and the Federal Trade Commission(FTC). The police report may ask for a copy of the identity theft report filed with the FTC. 

Protecting Yourself When Fraudulent Debt Moving to Collections

If you become aware of fraudulent debt when debt collectors contact you, the FTC advises you to file a dispute with the collection agency within 30 days of speaking with them. Once this is completed, they should send you written information verifying the debt is yours. An example may be the original invoice stating the amount you owe. They will pause efforts to collect for 30 more days from the point of sending you verification of your debt. You have 30 days from this point to further dispute the debt. If you do not dispute it within 30 days, the collection agency will assume it is yours.  

Moving on From Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud can turn your life upside down. It takes diligence and lots of time to contact the appropriate agencies, ensure that you have adequately documented it, and take steps to protect yourself moving forward. Thankfully, there is legislation in place to protect you and hold agencies accountable for doing their part in blocking fraudulent charges and protecting you moving forward. 

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