A recent data breach involving a credit card processing company is a reminder to consumers to keep a close watch for suspicious activity on credit card and bank statements.
Credit card issuers will typically notify customers if their accounts have been compromised. The issuer may send a new card and freeze the old account. Some companies will offer fraud monitoring services for a limited period. If they do, find out whether the service will result in a charge to your account and how you can cancel the service it you don’t want to keep paying for it.
Although most credit card companies don’t charge cardholders for fraudulent charges on their accounts, customers need to check their accounts for potential fraud not detected by a card issuer’s computers. You should look at transactions on the account regularly to make sure you actually made the listed purchases. Report any discrepancies immediately.
Most card issuers allow cardholders to check their accounts online. Some ID theft experts recommend that consumers switch to electronic delivery of credit card statements, especially if your mailbox isn’t secure. This prevents thieves from stealing your mail to commit ID theft.
Another important step is checking your credit report on a regular basis. If you see accounts there that you didn’t open, contact the issuer to report potential fraud.
Many advertisements claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring.” Often, that service is free only if you sign up for another related, paid service. In some cases, unscrupulous operators may be attempting to steal your identity or sign you up for service that results in a monthly fee charged to a credit card. Beware of links in unsolicited emails that ask for personal information or account numbers.
The only way to get a truly free copy of a credit report is by using a service sponsored by the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion. The service is available at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Consumers also may go to the website and download a request form that the reports be sent by mail. Reports typically arrive within two to three weeks.
Other tips that can help safeguard your accounts:
- Review receipts at stores before you sign them. Make sure the amounts jive with what you are purchasing.
- Shred old statements
- Keep copies of ATM and sales receipts for your records and compare them with your monthly statements. Call the credit card company if you find a discrepancy. If fraud is involved, consider filing a police report.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using your card. Could someone be looking over your shoulder to see your account number or the security code on the back?
- Don’t leave cards unattended or in plain sight. Watch to see how the store or restaurant handles the card, and put it away immediately when you get it back.
- If you are traveling, especially overseas, tell your card issuer where you will be and for how long.
- Report missing cards immediately to the issuer.
- Consider canceling inactive accounts.
Before you do business with a company, check its free BBB Business Review by going to http://www.ct.bbb.org or by calling 203-269-2700.