It could happen to anyone, at anytime. In a world of digital transactions and open communication, we are all vulnerable to credit card fraud. When it happens, credit card fraud can be disruptive to an individual’s life, damaging to an individual’s credit report and frustrating to investigate and, ultimately, resolve. Investigating this type of crime can be a complicated process best left to law enforcement officers, but there are steps you can take to help investigate credit card fraud when it happens
You get your monthly credit card bill and find a charge from a place you have never visited for an item you did not purchase. Your identity and credit card number have been stolen. Now what do you do? According to the Secret Service’s online report on credit card fraud, your first step is to report the stolen card to the proper law enforcement authorities, and the quicker the better. Make sure to ascertain a copy of the police report for your records. Contacting your credit card company should be next on your list. You’ll want to resolve the disputed charge, and start repairing your damaged credit. Close the account and ask that the record show the account was closed on “the consumer’s request.” The Secret Service also suggests you contact the “fraud units” of the three major credit reporting bureaus–Equifax, Experian and the Trans Union– so they can flag your account and your credit can start to be repaired.
Credit card fraud is a criminal offense and, even though you want to get out there and hunt down who ever stole your identity, the fact is the investigation is a law enforcement matter. In many cases, once you have reported the crime, the decision to pursue investigation is out of your hands. However, there are a few things you can do to help the investigation. Obviously, you’ll want to cooperate fully but you do not want to place undo pressure on the investigating officers. Take note of the crime reference number or any identification your case was given by the credit card companies. Make sure you are available to answer the questions of investigators whenever they call–an arrest might depend on your being around to provide information. Finally, gather any evidence you can find pertaining to the crime, including any evidence on the fraudulent transaction and be prepared to wait during this lengthy process.
Avoiding Credit Card Fraud
The best way to deal with credit card fraud is to avoid the crime altogether. Online, the FBI offers several suggestions. Internet commerce is one of the most common places where credit card fraud occurs. The FBI suggests you research the site and only give out your credit card if the transaction is secure and the vendor is reputable. To verify a site is secure, before using, check out the “security/encryption” software used to see if is reliable. If you are unsure of a vendor, look for a physical address and be wary of temporary addresses, such as PO boxes. The FBI also recommends to be cautious when responding to special, unsolicited email offers and to avoid overseas vendors. Finally, the FBI suggests keeping a list of all your credit cards and account information. If you notice anything suspicious, refer to your handy list, and call the authorities immediately.