Could You Be a Credit Card Thief’s Next Victim?May 10, 2011
Use caution and common sense, and you’ll minimize your chances of falling victim to a credit card scammer.
Credit card fraud is fast on the rise, thanks to more and more people shopping online. But fraud happens in person, too; an unscrupulous restaurant server could easily jot down your credit card information when you pay your tab. All it takes is one unfortunate move for someone to steal your credit card information. From there, it can be only a matter of hours before your card is used for fraudulent transactions—perhaps even before you can report the card missing.
How do these credit card scammers get access to your information? Scammers find creative ways to use your card or your card’s digits. They use your lost or stolen credit card to make purchases in person, online, or by phone. Some scammers steal your new or replacement credit card right out of the mail before it even gets to you. And perhaps the most dangerous method of all: some scammers use your name and personal information to apply for a new, legitimate credit card that comes directly to them. This is outright identity theft, aimed to ruin your good credit and good name. It could take years to set straight, and you might not realize you’re a victim unless you check your credit report.
So how do you protect yourself from such rampant theft? To make sure you haven’t been victimized, you should keep regular watch over your credit report. Once a year, you can access a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. (This is the only website authorized to provide consumers with a free credit report in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.) Order a complete report each year and review it for accuracy. If there are accounts you don’t recognize and didn’t apply for, contact the credit bureaus immediately to report fraud. You should also check your monthly credit card statements and immediately call your credit card company about any charges you did not make.
Other ways to protect yourself: Sign the back of your credit cards. This way, a clerk might be able to catch someone trying to make an in-person, fraudulent purchase with your card. If your credit card is lost or stolen, call the credit card company the moment you notice it’s missing—don’t wait, even if you think you might find the card later. Better safe than sorry. And finally, protect your credit card information as if it were cash. Don’t lend the card or give out the number to an untrustworthy source. Be especially wary of phishing scams that disguise their e-mail as coming from a legitimate business, such as PayPal or your bank. Legitimate requests for your credit card number will not be made through e-mail. And if you’re making an online purchase, always check that the website is secure so no one can intercept your data.
By protecting your credit card information and watching your credit report, you can greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to a credit card scammer. But even the most careful people can have their information stolen. If you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, the law offices of Hornberger & Brewer can help. Our experienced professionals will tell you the steps you can take immediately to minimize your losses. We’ll also tell you what you can do to follow up to clear your credit and your good name. We can answer the questions most on your mind during this troubled time, such as whether companies have the right to collect on these fraudulent charges, whether your insurance might cover your losses, and whether the thief can be prosecuted if found. Our attorneys will work with you to make sure you are protected and that you recover as much as you can. To talk to an attorney or to schedule a consultation, visit our website.
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