What to Do If Your Credit Card Is Hijacked

However careful you are, however often you check a site before you buy anything on it, or however carefully you guard your card there is still a possibility that your credit card information can be hijacked without the physical piece of plastic itself ever leaving your hands. This can be the most devastating form of credit card fraud if you do not act promptly and properly. Here are some basic guidelines you should be aware of, and prepared to follow in the event that you discover that your credit card information, and therefore your credit card account itself, has been hijacked.

Report the Problem as Soon as Possible

Almost all credit card issuers offer a “no liability” policy in regard to unauthorized purchases made using your credit card account but there are rather stringent requirements involved if you want to make sure that your liability is as little as possible.

One of the most common of these conditions is that the theft of your information be reported as soon as possible. In the case of card not present fraud it may take as long as until your next credit card statement arrives that you actually even realize there is a problem. It is imperative however that you call your credit card issuer as soon as you know that there is a problem so that the account can be suspended and the company can begin to investigate the fraudulent transactions. So that you will be prepared to do just that, you should always know what the numbers you will need to call in the event of a fraud problem are.

File a Police Report

This is the one simple step that many of those who fall victim to credit card fraud neglect to follow but it really is an essential one, especially if you have to argue with credit bureaus down the line to get black marks caused by fraudulent credit card transactions off your credit report. In addition if you know that the fraud occurred as a result of your patronage of a certain website, or you can clearly trace your dilemma to a certain phishing email you should definitely consider contacting the Attorney general for your state and the local Better Business Bureau as well.

Filing a police report does not require that you have a suspect in mind nor does it matter that the credit card fraud may have taken place online. It is merely a tool in most cases to prove to your credit card company and others that the theft really occurred and you are not just attempting to get out of paying a large credit card bill (some people have tried). However occasionally by filing a police report the culprits are indeed brought to justice, another good reason to fill one out.

Start Contacting the Credit Reporting Bureaus

Your credit card issuing company may not hold you liable for fraudulent transactions but they will not tell the credit reporting bureaus that fraudulent transactions have been made in your name and unless you take quick action these transactions may still come back to haunt you in the form of blemishes on your credit record that damage your all-important credit score.

Therefore you need to contact the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – as soon as possible to report the identity theft and provide details of the fraudulent transactions you know about.

We wish we could say that this is an easy process but it is unfortunately often not at all, as many who have been in this unfortunate position can attest to. You can expect to be asked to provide all kinds of paperwork to back up your claims and have to do so for each charge you are reporting as fraudulent. It’s annoying and inconvenient to have to do so to say the least but if you do not comply usually the entry will remain on your credit report.

You will also need to keep a close eye on your credit reports for a while as transactions you did not even know about may show up down the road and threaten your good credit score in the same way.

When You Get Your New Card

Eventually of course you will, provided you still want one, be issued a new credit card with a brand new credit card number. When you get this new card it is a great time to review how you use your credit card to try to help minimize the chances that lightning will strike you twice. Here are some tips you may not have thought of before that you should consider using as soon as you get that new plastic and use going forward:

  • However convenient it may be, especially if you are a forgetful person who has problems remembering passwords etc, don’t enter or store your personal financial information on your cell phone, PDA, or in an insecure place such as at work in your desk, your purse or wallet or even in an insecure area of your home.
  • If your credit card issuer offers it consider signing up for a service like Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode. These free to use services require the entry of a completely different passcode in order for online purchases to be completed at participating on-line merchants. This means that even if someone has most of your credit card information without that extra pass code they won’t be able to make purchases with it.
  • Create better passwords. Did you know that a frightening number of people use their birth date, their kids names or just the word “password” for many of their accounts, including their on-line credit card access account, just because they want something that is easy to remember? The problem is that if it is easy for you to remember it will be easier for a thief to crack, especially if they have more of your personal information – like you driver’s license – in their possession. A good password is one that is not easily related to you and contains a good mix of letters and numbers as well as upper and lowercase letters and if it is numbers only – as in the case of your ATM PIN – just pick random numbers that mean nothing.

Consider using your credit cards less. Go back to paying for your bills with old fashioned checks and also using a service like PayPal for paying for purchases you make online wherever possible. It may seem like you are taking backward steps in terms of technology but often it better to be old fashioned than tech savvy and the victim of a devastating credit card fraud.