Credit card fraud is when someone uses your credit card or credit account to make a purchase you didn’t authorize. This activity can happen in different ways:
- If you lose your credit card or have it stolen, it can be used to make purchases or other transactions, either in person or online.
- Fraudsters can also steal your credit card account number, PIN and security code to make unauthorized transactions, without needing your physical credit card. (Unlawful transactions like these are known as card-not-present fraud.)
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft involves the use of illegally obtained information about you, like your name, birthday, Social Security number, credit card numbers and more, in order to use existing credit accounts or open new ones in your name. When this happens, criminals capture the spending power of your credit while you get stuck with the bill.
What to Do if You’re a Victim
Because credit card fraud can happen at any time, even when your card is still safely in your wallet, it’s important to monitor all your credit card accounts regularly.
If you discover someone has made unauthorized charges on your credit card account, you should:
- Immediately contact the credit card company. Many have zero-liability policies, meaning you won’t be responsible for any fraudulent charges made on your accounts. What’s more, federal law limits your liability for fraudulent credit card charges. If someone uses your lost or stolen credit card before you report it missing to the card issuer, you can only be held responsible for $50 of any fraudulent charge. If you report the loss before the card is used, you’re not responsible for any charges, nor are you liable if it’s just the card number that’s stolen and used.
- Change your online passwords and PINs to prevent fraudsters from doing any further damage.
- Closely monitor account activity, and consider contacting Experian to put an initial security alert on your credit report. This can be especially helpful if you’re not sure how your information was compromised. Whichever credit bureau you contact will notify the other two major bureaus of your request.
- Keep an eye on your bank statements, and if you notice signs of fraud, notify your bank immediately.
- Request a copy of your credit report. Often, signs of fraud — such as new accounts you don’t recognize — will show up on credit card statements first, soon to follow on your credit reports. When you request a fraud alert, you will also get a copy of your credit report. Did you know you can also get a free copy of your Experian credit report at any time, too?
If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft (e.g., someone opened a credit card in your name), follow all the steps above, plus:
- Add a fraud alert to your credit report by visiting our fraud center.
- If you find fraudulent accounts or inquiries on your credit report, contact each creditor directly to make them aware of the fraud. If you’re a member of Experian, you’ll also have access to a dedicated Fraud Resolution Agent, who will work with you to correct fraudulent information with your creditors.