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I'm a Victim of Credit Card Fraud - What Now?

Identity Theft

The chances of becoming a victim of credit card fraud are probably better than you may believe. In 2009, there were more than 10 million victims of identity theft - many of those cases involving credit card fraud. It's important to know the precautions to take to try to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of credit card fraud. It's also essential that you know what steps to take if you become a victim:

  • Contact your local police. Filing a police report with your local police department is important for two reasons. Your credit card fraud may be part of a wider spree being investigated in your area and any information can help them in their investigation. The police report is also important because it verifies that the credit card fraud took place. Proof of the fraud may be required as you begin the process of restoring your credit.
  • Notify the three credit reporting agencies. Call the three credit agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - to report that you are a victim of credit card fraud. The call will automatically trigger a temporary fraud alert on your credit file. That stays in effect for 90 days and requires companies opening any new accounts in your name to verify that you asked for the account.
  • Ask for an extended fraud alert. This keeps the fraud alert in place for 7 years and makes it extremely difficult for someone to open an account using your identity. The fraud alert does not affect your credit score and you can remove it at any time. The extended fraud alert entitles you to get two free credit reports from each of the three agencies in the next 12 months. Normally, you can only get one free report in a year.
  • Close any affected accounts. Make sure you deal with the fraud departments of your bank and any credit card companies where fraudulent activity took place. Follow up your report with a certified letter confirming the action you took. It's also a good idea to write a letter explaining the credit card fraud, including when it took place and when it was discovered, to be placed on your credit report.
  • Don't relax. While you may think the worst is over now that you've discovered fraudulent charges or new cards opened in your name remain vigilant. Use the free credit reports to regularly look at your credit file to see if any new accounts have been opened or any missed payments have been reported on accounts you did not open.
  • Keep a complete file. While the process of canceling and reopening accounts and dealing with the credit reporting agencies may move along with no difficulties, don't make that assumption. Keep a detailed file with a copy of the police report and notes of any and all conversations, as well as receipts from certified mail and other information related to the actions taken since the credit card fraud was discovered. As a victim of credit card fraud, you be questioned at some point about the date the fraud or report of the fraud took place, or whether you sent in a form as required.

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