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Protecting Yourself from Credit Card Fraud

by Rania Combs

I looked over my January bank statement for my business account a few weeks ago and noticed something unusual. I use my business account exclusively for business, so charges from Google Play stood out. Four unauthorized charges, each for $399.99, occurred between January 24 and January. 31. I also found charges of 99 cents before that, apparently testing the account.

I immediately contacted my bank to report the unauthorized charges on my debit card. The scammer had set up a subscription, which means that about $800 would have been deducted from my account weekly had I not checked my statement and noticed the fraudulent activity. The bank canceled the subscription, froze my card, and issued a new one. Thankfully, I have not detected any unauthorized charges on my account this month.

Credit Card Fraud is a Big Problem

I am not aloneHundreds of thousands of Americans are victimized by credit card fraud annually. In fact, Americans collectively lost over $250 million dollars in fraudulent credit card transactions. Many unauthorized charges are the result of fraudulent subscription charges of under $5, which go largely unnoticed by cardholders.

Tips to Protect Yourself 

Be vigilant! It goes without saying that you should check your bank and credit card statements at least monthly for transactions you do not recognize. If you find suspicious activity, report the unauthorized charges immediately. This will increase the likelihood that the financial institution will credit charges back to your account. 

It is also possible to set up alerts of transactions on your accounts, which I have now done. My bank will now alert me to all transactions over a specified dollar amount.  

FBI Recommendations to Avoid Credit Card Fraud

In addition to carefully reviewing your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges, the FBI recommends that you take the following step to avoid Credit Card Fraud:

  • Don’t give out your credit card number online unless the site is secure and reputable. 
  • Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.
  • Before using the site, check out the security/encryption software it uses.
  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
  • Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Obtain a physical address rather than simply a post office box and a telephone number, and call the seller to see if the telephone number is correct and working.
  • Send an e-mail to the seller to make sure the e-mail address is active, and be wary of those that utilize free e-mail services where a credit card wasn’t required to open the account.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won’t provide you with this type of information.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller’s area.
  • Check out other websites regarding this person/company.
  • Don’t judge a person or company by their website; flashy websites can be set up quickly.
  • Be cautious when responding to special investment offers, especially through unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
  • If possible, purchase items online using your credit card. You can often dispute the charges if something goes wrong.
  • Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card number.
  • Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card issuer’s contact information. If anything looks suspicious or you lose your credit card(s), contact the card issuer immediately.

A Final Thought

I’m not sure how the scammer got my card number, but I suspect that it may have occurred because I had my credit card number saved on a retailer’s website. Even though the vendors I use are reputable and promise to store credit card information securely, the information can be vulnerable to a data breach.

So I’ve deleted all my saved cards. Even though it’s less convenient to input my card number every time I make an online purchase, I’ve decided that keeping my accounts safe is worth the hassle.

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