There are a lot of ways an identity thief can use your personal information. Some are more devastating than others, while some forms of identity theft are more common.
Fortunately, the most serious forms of identity theft, like filing fraudulent tax returns, don’t happen very often, but discovering there is less money in your bank account than there should be is still a huge cause for concern.
Credit card fraud is definitely the most common form of identity theft. Here are a few ways thieves can steal from your credit cards, how to discover your credit card has been compromised, and exactly how to make sure you get your money back.
Ways identity thieves get your credit card information
The easiest way for a thief to use your information, and the most common way they use your information, is to simply get a hold of your current credit card number. After all, with your credit card number in hand, a thief can start spending right away!
It’s definitely most lucrative for a thief to hack into businesses as it will provide them with hundreds, if not thousands, of viable credit card numbers. Target’s data breach in 2013 is a recent example, but it’s not the only one. Not only can the thief use the information directly, they can also sell it, which brings us to the next way identity thieves can get your credit card information.
Identity theft is big business. Just one regular old credit card number can go for up to $50, while a no-limit American Express card number for a consumer with good credit can sell for hundreds of dollars. If a thief can’t get your number himself, he can always buy it.
Identity thieves are often people you have interacted with. Think waitresses, coworkers, and even family members. Thieves can also get a hold of your information because you clicked on a link inside a scammy email. The most difficult form of credit card theft to deal with is new credit accounts that are opened in your name. Not only do you have to deal with the charges, you have to deal with the entire account.
How to discover if your credit card has been compromised
The most important piece of advice to follow when it comes to credit card theft is to keep an eye on your accounts. The age of the internet has made this easier than ever. Strive to check your bank account and credit accounts at least once every week or two, if not more often. The sooner you catch fraud on your account, the easier it is to solve.
Getting your money back
If there’s anything positive to be said about the fact that credit card fraud is so common, it’s that most banks and credit card companies are usually willing to refund the money to your account as soon as fraud is detected on your existing card. Simply give them a call and report the fraud on your account. You may have to sign a few waivers, but the funds will usually be returned to your account within a few days. To further safeguard your account, that credit card number will be immediately canceled and a new one will be issued in your name.
Unfortunately, dealing with a new account can be more difficult. It’s much easier to deal with one or two fraudulent charges than it is to deal with the account itself. It is still important to report the fraud immediately. In this case, you should also consider reporting the fraudulent activity to the three major credit bureaus. An entire credit account can more adversely affect your credit score than basic charges on your existing account.
Don’t let credit card fraud get you down! Know that you aren’t alone and that compared to other forms of identity theft, it’s reasonably easy to fix. Here are a few ways to avoid fraud to keep it from happening to you again in the future.