- Credit card fraud can take on several forms. It may happen when someone steals your credit card or gets the number and other identifying information. It is then used to make in-person or online purchases. Fraud can also happen if someone steals your identity and gets a credit card in your name. You may even be defrauded by a company with which you do legitimate business. Some companies hide trial memberships or additional purchases in the fine print. Your credit card will be charged monthly for a service you did not even know you were buying.
- You will most likely catch credit card fraud when you get your monthly credit card statement or if you check your credit reports regularly. This leaves a gap of time in which criminals can rack up high charges on your account. You are only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges, so it is to the credit card company's benefit to catch fraud as soon as possible. Otherwise it might be stuck with the bulk of a hefty amount of fraudulent transactions. You will benefit, too, because you will know that your information or identity may be compromised and so you can put a fraud alert on your credit reports and take other steps to protect yourself.
- Credit card companies often catch fraud by monitoring purchase patterns. They learn over time how you tend to use your credit card. It sets off a warning if your card is suddenly used in a different way. For example, you might use one credit card primarily for buying gas, groceries and other daily necessity items. The credit card company will be suspicious if someone suddenly charges several thousand dollars' worth of electronics on the card. It will also watch for charges from companies about which it has already received multiple complaints.
- Credit card fraud can be linked to overseas criminals. Companies often catch problems by monitoring where your card is used. They will be on high alert if you've never used your card outside the United States and then it is suddenly used for a rash of purchases in Russia, Nigeria or another suspicious place. If you will be visiting another country, alert your credit card company, so it will not misinterpret those foreign charges as fraud, the Stop Identity Theft Info website advises.
- Credit card companies will notify you of suspicious activity as part of their effort to catch fraud. You can either confirm the activity as legitimate or let the company know that its suspicions are correct. This allows it to immediately deactivate the card and issue you a new account number.
- Criminals will sometimes pretend they are your credit card company trying to protect you from fraud. You may receive an email or phone call stating your account has been deactivated due to suspicious activity. You are instructed to give your account number and other personal information to reactivate the account. It will be stolen and used for real fraud if you do. Credit card companies may call you, but they will not ask for your account number and they will address you by name rather than calling you "Visa customer" or some other generic salutation. Call your credit card issuer at the customer service number on your card if you get a fraud alert call and are not sure it is legitimate, consumer advocate Clark Howard advises.