Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What to Do If Your Credit Card is Hijacked

I bank with a credit union and got a call yesterday evening from the Security Department. The representative stated that it looks like some unusual charges were on my account. He verified with me that the charges were not mine. Someone had gotten my credit card number and had a field day. My credit card is still in my possession and the last purchase I made was two ½ weeks ago.

I never shop at unknown websites and don’t make a lot of online purchases. I always shop at well-known sites such as department stores, Amazon, etc. I was shocked that someone compromised my card because I only use my card to make occasional online purchases, pay for hotel reservations or airfare. I prefer to use my credit card to make these purchases in the event that my check card is compromised I won’t lose cash. Protect your personal information as you would your life. If you are a victim of identity theft here are 8 tips to minimize damage.

1. Report identity theft immediately. You only have a limited amount of time to report the incident, usually a few days.
2. Contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and tell them you were a victim of identity theft. They will provide you with a free copy of your credit reports. Dispute any accounts that are not yours. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports if the fraud happened within the past 12 months. You will get an initial alert placed for 90 days then call back to ask for an extended alert which can last for up to 7 years.
3. File a police report within a few days of becoming aware of the identity theft. This will be helpful when contacting Experian, Equifax and TransUnion as proof of your claim of identity theft.
4. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, your state's Consumer Affairs or Attorney General's Office and Postal Service.
5. File a postal alert with the post office which can be filed online at
6. Request a copy of the investigation findings from the police department and the company where the fraud occurred. Ask the company to send you a letter stating you were a victim of identity theft and send a copy send to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
7. File a fraud claim with the loss mitigation department where the fraud occurred (ask for signature verification which is a quicker way to resolve the issue). You can also contact the Customer Service department and have them put a flag on your account. Sometimes different departments do not exchange information.
8. File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at

Here are 6 tips to prevent identity theft.

1. Reduce usage of online banking, pay for more items with cash and use your debit/check card less often. It is easier to get money credited back to your account when using a credit card than when using a debit/check card.
2. Don't enter or store your personal information on your cell phones, blackberry, or in an unsecure place such as work, your purse or wallet. Don’t text your credit card, financial account numbers or SSN. Don't enter your personal information in contests or on the internet. Don’t make purchases using your blackberry or cell phone.
3. If you become a victim of identity theft due to a company security breach, consider closing your account and take your business to another company.
4. Check your bank statements and accounts online or over the phone at least once a week to make sure your account has not compromised.
5. Shred all financial statements and documents that contain your personal information.
6. Create a password on your bank checking and savings account when performing transactions in a branch and when calling the automated number or when calling customer service to verify your identity to prevent others from accessing your account.

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