With the abundance of online banking, bill paying and shopping today, it’s no wonder that credit card fraud and data breaches are more common now than ever before. According to the IRS, 2.7 million people had their identities stolen in 2014.
And, unfortunately, credit card fraud is on the rise.
According to CreditCards.com, data breaches totaled over 1,500 in 2014. That’s nearly 50 percent more than the year before … making it more important than ever to keep yourself protected.
However, instead of living in fear of credit card fraud, you can take steps to protect yourself against it. Read on to learn how you can ensure your finances — and your identity — are kept safe and secure.
While you may not be able to prevent credit card fraud from happening, you can take the following steps to make it more difficult for your information to be compromised.
First, do not give your account number to anyone over the phone unless you’re absolutely sure it is a reputable company. If you’re heading out, it’s wise to carry your cards separately from your wallet to minimize potential fraud if your purse or wallet is stolen.
Any time you make purchases, practice caution during transactions — be sure you cover the card processor if you have to enter a PIN and make sure you always get your card back after a purchase. And always save your receipts to compare charges on your credit card statement.
Credit monitoring services are all but a necessity these days. If you’re worried about becoming a victim of identity theft (and no one is safe), it is wise to take steps to protect yourself by setting up service with a company that monitors your information for possible fraud.
LifeLock, for example, offers three layers of protection to detect potential fraud, alert you to suspicious activity and restore your identity if it is, indeed, compromised.
LifeLock’s comprehensive system searches over one trillion data points every day — scouring them for potential threats. The service proactively monitors credit applications and a wide variety of other networks that contain your personal information. Plus, LifeLock backs its service with a $1 million total service guarantee. That means the company will hire experts and spend up to $1 million to help in your recovery. So you can rest easy knowing that if something happens, you are protected.
What to do if You’re a Victim
If you’re credit card is breached, there are steps you should take immediately:
Call the Credit Card Company
As soon as you suspect fraudulent activity, you should call the credit card company immediately to report it. Most companies will work with you to help track down the activity, as well as monitor your account. Also, reporting early gives you a better chance to have the fraudulent charges refunded.
Contact the Credit Bureaus
To avoid your credit score being adversely affected, you should contact one of the credit reporting companies — Equifax, TransUnion or Experian — right away to report the fraudulent activity.
Alert Your Bank
Even if the compromised credit card is not linked to your bank account, it’s a good idea to inform your bank of the situation so that the bank can monitor your account closely for any potential identity theft activity.
Change Online Information
If the compromised credit card is linked to any online stores or automatic bill pay sites, you should remove the card from each account right away to prevent any further fraudulent activity.
Identity theft is a scary thought that can cause stress and financial loss if it occurs. However, by protecting yourself ahead of time, you can gain peace of mind knowing that you’re covered in the event you experience fraud.