A stolen credit card can cause a wave of panic. Someone else is using your card and buying things that don’t belong to you. And you’re not sure what else they’re doing with it.
Before spiraling into desperation mode, do your best to stay calm. You can follow a few action steps to ensure your credit profile and identity stay safe.
1. Check your transactions
Use your credit card app or go online to see the list of most recent transactions — even if they are still pending. Identify which ones you made yourself and when the fraud started to occur. This will help a little later when you report the fraud.
Be mindful that your credit card company will need to verify your identity.
Have personal information handy to prove you’re you, like answers to secret questions or your Social Security number.
Having the list of transactions helps the fraud department determine when exactly the theft occurred. It may also help you piece together when you last had your card, and if it was physically stolen.
2. Report the fraud
Contact your bank or credit card issuer to report the fraudulent charges. If you still have your physical card, you can call the number on the back of your card. Otherwise, you can call the general number and they’ll put you in contact with the right department.
Reporting the fraud is the most important step in stopping identity theft.
Your lender may have specific protections in place to make sure you aren’t held accountable for the fraudulent charges.
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you’re not responsible for any unauthorized purchases if your credit card number was stolen (and only up to $50 if the physical card was taken). While reporting the fraud, ask what protections are in place for you.
When you make the initial report, you may get a case number. If they don’t provide one automatically, ask them. Keep the number for your records and monitor your case until you receive a letter that your case is closed.
3. Cancel your card
Your credit card company may already be handling this for you. If your credit card number was digitally stolen, you can no longer use your physical card. Cut it up through the account number before you throw your old card away.
Suspend any auto-pay setups you have in place with the old card number. Otherwise, you’ll get a notification that your auto-pay was rejected or unable to authorize. Avoid these negative hits and update auto-pay accounts with your new card when it arrives, which is usually within 7-10 business days.
4. Check other accounts
While you may have only noticed one credit card had fraudulent activity, do your due diligence. Check all other credit and debit cards, as well as savings, retirement, and investment accounts. Anything that has money in it should get checked. If you have children, monitor their education plans as well, like 529s and Coverdells. It may seem like a hassle to go through everything, but it’s far better to check now than to wait until damage has already been done.
5. Update your passwords and PINs
Even if no other account was affected, it’s important to prevent further theft from happening. Change all passwords to accounts you regularly use: bank accounts, emails, social media logins, and any apps that have your banking information tied to it (think your gas app or coffee shop). Make sure to change PINs, too.
When changing your passwords, make sure you:
- Avoid using the same passwords. If you have the same password for your email as you do for your bank login, a scammer can get access to your other personal accounts. Each login should have a unique password.
- Don’t use something personal. Dates, locations, and people that are important to you make passwords easy to remember. But they also make you more susceptible to getting your information stolen.
- Try a password manager. You probably have more logins than you realize. Building new passwords for every single account is daunting. To avoid having to store all your passwords manually, consider a password manager, like 1Password or LastPass. You can generate unique passwords, save your logins, and continuously update your accounts when you need to.
6. Follow your reports
Monitor your credit score and report as often as you can. You can request a free copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. Keeping tabs on your credit report ensures that no further accounts were compromised in the original fraud. It also helps you see if any fraudulent charges made it onto your credit report. If they did, you can request they be removed.
It’s important to routinely check all your accounts often to make sure no further fraud occurred. Keeping yourself safe means always checking in, updating your personal information, and reporting unauthorized activity.