5 Ways to Protect Yourself if You’re the Victim of Credit Fraud

Ways to Protect Yourself if You are Victim of Credit Fraud

Michael Delgado is a Social Media Community Manager at Experian. Michael helps promote financial literacy on Experian social channels and writes for the Experian news blog.

Several years ago, someone fraudulently used my credit card number to make purchases at various stores around the country.

Thankfully, I got a call from my credit card company that alerted me of the activity, and then quickly closed down that account number after I verified the charges were fraudulent. All the debts were soon removed and I was issued a new credit card within a week.

Sometimes fraud can be handled quickly, but sometimes it takes a lot more time.

Here are five steps to protect yourself if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your credit accounts:

1. Contact the Creditor & Take Notes

First, call the creditor with fraudulent activity and let them know what’s going on. Document the phone call and keep a summary of all your conversations.

Write down names of people you talk with, time of day, date, departments, phone numbers and extensions. Find out from each creditor what you need to do get these debts removed from your account. You may be asked to complete and sign a statement about the fraudulent charges, so sign and fax it back quickly.

2. Request an Updated Credit Report

If you suspect credit fraud, pull a fresh credit report to ensure your credit accounts are listed correctly. If you have already received your annual free report at AnnualCreditReport.com, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to an additional free credit report if you are victim of fraud (or believe to be a victim of fraud). You can get your additional free report in fraud cases directly from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

“Remember that if someone is making purchases after obtaining your account number, that activity will show on your billing statement, but not on your credit report” says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education at Experian. “So make it a habit to watch your credit card billing online and check your statement carefully each month.” This is especially important during the holiday season.

3. Add a Fraud Alert to Your Credit Report

If you feel you might be a victim of identity theft, you may want to set up a fraud alert on your credit file with ExperianTransUnion, and/or Equifax. A fraud alert informs creditors to contact you directly before granting any credit in your name or increasing your credit limits.

First, you’ll want to add an initial security alert that will stay on your file for about 90-days. That gives you time to determine if you are a victim and time to file a police report.   Then, once you have a copy of a police report and have confirmed that you are a victim, you may request the extended 7-year fraud alert to keep yourself protected going forward.  These alerts are shared among the three national credit reporting companies, so you only need to request an alert from one credit bureau.

“You can also place a credit freeze which must be requested with each bureau, which restricts access to your report. However, freezing means you have to remember to temporarily unfreeze your report when you need services, which can be inconvenient,” says Maxine Sweet.

4. Get a Police Report & Submit to a Credit Bureau

After you’ve added a security alert and determined that you are indeed a victim, make sure to file a police report on what has happened. This police report should get submitted to the credit bureau as soon as possible and any fraudulent activity should be disputed at that time.

The credit reporting company may need up to 45 days to verify the police report and fraudulent activity. When the verification is completed, you will be notified of the results of the investigation.

5. Request Another Credit Report

After the fraud has been reported and cleared from the credit bureau you’re working with, request another credit report from each credit reporting company to make sure all of your reports are correct.

“Victims of fraud often find a year of monitoring services a good investment. Knowing that you immediately will be alerted to any inquiries, new accounts, or negative payments can bring peace of mind after being victimized,” says Maxine Sweet.

To learn more about identity theft resources, check out the free resources from the Federal Trade Commission. And learn about other ways to take action against credit fraud at Experian.

Get offers for lower-interest rate debt consolidation loans here on ReadyForZero!
Check your rate using ReadyForZero's free debt consolidation tool. People have saved thousands by consolidating higher-interest debts using a single, personal loan, this will not negatively impact your credit. Check Your Rate Now

Image credit: horten

Receive updates:      
You can always unsubscribe by clicking on the link at the bottom of each e-mail.

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman.com

    It’s been a long time since I”ve dealt with this problem. I never even bothered to check out my credit report, but it’s a good idea, nice list, man!

    • Glad you liked the post! I don’t always check my credit report very often either, but it’s probably a good idea to check it at least once a year or every six months. You can always use annualcreditreport.com, which is free.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    I just had this happen to me last year. Apparently I was buying coffee all over the place on the West Coast while I was at work in the Midwest. Thankfully my credit card company called to confirm and they were able to get it shut down and I had a new card in 3 business days. Thankfully there was no issue with the credit report either.

    • Wow! That’s pretty crazy. How awesome that your credit card company handled so smoothly and got the new card to you ASAP. Glad to hear it did not hit your credit score at all.

  • I make sure I keep a close watch on my credit in order to catch any errors as soon as they appear.

    • That’s good! It probably gives you peace of mind to know that there are no errors bringing down your score.

  • I try to keep track of my report to see if anything fishy is going on. I used to use my debit card online, but now I only use my credit card because of the security. Great tips.

    • Glad you liked the article! And yes, it is so important to keep in mind the security aspect of using cards online.

  • Stapler Confessions

    A lot of my friends are really upset about the Target credit card breach over the past few weeks, they will really appreciate this article. Thanks!