Combating Credit-Card Fraud – and What to Do if You’re a Victim
Here’s an inescapable fact of our cyber-oriented world: Every time you enter your credit or debit card number online, you’re leaving yourself open to becoming a potential victim of credit card fraud.
Most online merchants and service providers do everything they can to protect consumers’ privacy, but criminals and hackers are often one step ahead of them. One recent survey found that more than 70% of Americans either regularly make purchases online using a credit or debit card, or log into their credit or debit card accounts via the Internet.
Safeguard Your Credit
To protect yourself, your family, and your credit rating, make sure you regularly monitor your credit-card transactions online, and if you spot suspicious activity, immediately report it to your bank. Many banks and credit card companies will alert you when they notice an odd purchase, and most banks maintain a zero-liability policy, meaning that cardholders won’t be responsible for fraudulent charges on credit or debit cards. However, under federal law, you can be held liable for a maximum of $50 in fraudulent charges. Most financial institutions won’t hold you responsible for inaccurate charges, though.
Enter your credit card number only on secure websites. For example, if you’re applying for a line of credit or military loan, check the URL at the top of your browser. If it begins with “https,” that means you’re on a secure site, and you can safely enter your credit card and other personal information.
Damage Control for Credit Card Fraud
If you do become a victim, either of theft or hacking, there are steps you should take immediately to counteract any potential damage to your credit rating.
First, notify your credit card provider or bank, no matter the time of day. Then contact one of the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax or Trans Union – and request that a fraud alert be put on your account. Those alerts can range from 90 days to seven years and act as a “red flag” for anyone looking at your credit file, signaling to potential creditors that you might have been a victim of fraud.
As a member of the military, you may also be eligible to put a “military/active duty” alert on your credit account. The alert is similar to an initial fraud alert, but it will remain on your credit file for the duration of your active duty – up to 12 months – and will remove your name from pre-screened offers of credit for two years.
For more information on credit card fraud and how to protect yourself, check the Federal Trade Commission website. You can also learn more about managing your credit by here on the Just Military Loans blog.
Have you been a victim of credit card fraud? What steps do you take to protect your credit? We’re always happy to hear your stories, thoughts, and insights.