How to Handle Fraudulent Activity on Your Accounts
Have you ever looked at your bank statement and noticed a transaction you didn't make? Finding fraudulent activity on a financial account is something that can happen to anyone.
This activity can range from someone taking your information and using it to open new accounts to swiping your credit or debit card with a skimmer and using that data to make unauthorized charges. Fraud also happens if someone physically takes your card and uses it to make purchases you did not authorize.
If you realize someone is misusing your personal information or making unauthorized transactions, take these steps to put a stop to it and protect yourself in the future.
What to Do If You Discover Fraudulent Activity
The very first thing you need to do is report the fraud or theft to your bank or credit card company, and freeze your card so that no other fraudulent purchases can be made. You may inadvertently void consumer protections if you knew about the fraud, but waited to report it. And some banks may be able to help recover money that was taken from a debit account.
Call your bank or credit card company directly using their customer service line, or visit their website and look to see if they have a phone number specifically for reporting fraud. If you think your credit accounts might be affected, file reports with all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to contact the police. For example, if someone steals your ID, you may not need to file a report. But, some credit card companies may require you to file a report to process your claim or dispute any unauthorized charges.
Once you report the issue, your bank or credit card company should work with you to resolve the problem. Credit cards will often flag suspicious transactions and remove those from your account in clear cases of fraud.
How to Prevent Fraud in the Future
The best way to fix cases of fraud is to avoid them entirely. A few easy, preventative steps can go a long way toward keeping you, your money, and your financial information safe. Consider taking the following actions to prevent fraudulent activity in the future:
- Set up Fraud Alerts: Your bank may offer a service for fraud alerts, where they can contact you or stop a transaction if they suspect fraudulent activity. This can help prevent someone, who has your information, from using it. Account alerts can also help you monitor your finances more closely.
- Be Mindful of Where You Share Personal Information: Never send sensitive data through unsecured sites or emails.
- Beware of Phone/Text Scams: Some thieves may try to gain access to your financial information via phone calls or texts as well.
- Shred Bills and Other Financial Documents: Thieves don't need your physical card to commit fraud; they only need your account information. Make sure to safely dispose of any paperwork that lists account or credit card numbers.
- Think About Freezing Your Credit: This might be an extreme step because when you freeze your credit no one can use it, not even you. It can keep you safe, but it also requires you to go through a process to unfreeze it later. A less drastic measure may be to simply lock an account or card through your bank.
- Conduct a Final Review: Plan to review all of your financial statements monthly — however, daily would be ideal. If any unauthorized activity happens to slip through, a regular review of your transactions will help you catch it quickly.
Use the steps above to help prevent fraudulent activity within your financial accounts. The faster you spot fraud, the easier it will likely be to work with your bank or credit card company to resolve it.