The first of the year is a great time to do a personal finance check, and one area that is often overlooked is checking for fraud. Credit card fraud occurs when someone gains access to your credit card information and uses it for his or her own personal gain. Once someone has this information they can run up charges on the card. Holidays can increase the incidence of fraud… especially if you have used credit cards to make purchases, either in stores or online.
Many times you don’t know the fraud has occurred until it’s too late. However, early warning signs can alert you to the potential fraud. As you receive statements, keep a close eye on the charges to make sure they are all yours. In addition, pay attention to credit card bills that don’t arrive or to paid bills showing as unpaid.
To protect yourself again identity theft now, and in the future, just remember three words: Deter, Detect, Defend.
- Never click on links in emails you didn’t request
- Don’t use passwords that can be easily guessed
- Take bills to be paid to the Post Office for mailing
- Only carry credit cards and identification that you actually need
- Be alert to bills, mail, or account statements that don’t arrive on time
- Check out any unexpected credit card bills, denials of credit for no reason, and calls or letters about purchases you didn’t make
- Check your credit report at least once a year. The first of the year is a great time to get started. Credit reports are free from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion once every twelve months. You can get each at Annual Credit Report.com
- Review accounts and billing statements monthly
- Place a Fraud Alert on credit reports immediately if you suspect Fraud
- Close any accounts that have been compromised or opened fraudulently
- File a report with law enforcement if identity theft occurs
- Report your complaint to the Federal Trade Commission