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Credit Card Fraud Reports Spiked 24% Last Year. Here's How to Protect Yourself

Christy Bieber, The Motley Fool

There’s been a big increase in credit card fraud -- but you can take steps to protect your accounts.

Stack of credit cards with lock and chain on top

Image source: Getty Images

In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission reported a 24% increase in the number of consumers who experienced credit card fraud involving accounts opened in their name without their permission. Credit card fraud was the most commonly reported type of fraud connected to identity theft. There were more than 157,000 reports of fraudulent behavior over the course of the year.

Straightening out credit card fraud can be costly and time-consuming. You aren’t responsible for fraudulent charges as long as you report them in a timely manner. But it can still take time to get bad accounts off your credit report. And your credit score could drop while you resolve the issue.

Here are eight simple steps you should take to protect yourself from fraud.

1. Limit the personal information you share

The more personal information you make available, the more vulnerable you are to identity theft. That includes having credit card accounts opened in your name. Be careful about providing too many personal details to those you don’t know.

One way to protect your personal information is to shred junk mail. Bank and credit card statements and card pre-approval offers could provide garbage-pickers with details about your identity.

You should also limit what you post on social networks or make your info private. For example, your birthday and pet’s name are often used as security questions. Posting them could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

2. Keep your cards close

Be cautious about where you keep your credit cards. Ideally, cards should be in a wallet on your person or in a closed handbag. Even leaving your purse unattended in a shopping cart could make you vulnerable to fraud if someone grabs it.

3. Be careful where you use your cards

If you don’t fully trust a website or a sketchy local store, avoid using your credit card there. Make sure you have a secure connection before you enter your credit card information or personal details into any website. Look at the website address. If it says “https” rather than “http,” it should be secure.

4. Don’t store your cards in too many databases

Many companies encourage you to store your credit card number online for convenience. This lets you check out without re-entering your card number every time.

Unfortunately, doing this puts your card number in the company’s database. If the company gets hacked, your information could be taken. Limit the number of companies that store your payment info and other personal details to reduce the risk of fraud.

5. Use temporary card numbers

Shopping online inherently makes you vulnerable to hackers. But there’s a simple solution: Request a temporary card number from your card issuer.

Many card companies provide temporary numbers so you can charge to your account without giving out your real credit card number. Using a temp card keeps your number secure so you don’t have to worry about it falling into the wrong hands.

6. Report stolen or lost cards right away

If your credit card is stolen or lost, contact the credit card company right away. They can put a freeze on your card so you don’t have to worry about fraudulent charges.

7. Review your billing statements

If your card is misused by a thief, you want to know about it right away and alert your card company. You have limited time to report fraudulent transactions and not be held responsible for the charges. Take action quickly when you spot a charge you don’t recognize on your statement.

8. Check your credit report

Thieves opening cards in your name is a common type of fraud. If you catch this early, you can close the accounts and make sure that whoever misuses your info can't take on new credit.  

One of the best ways to spot identity theft is to check your credit report often. If you spot inquiries on your credit report from companies you don’t recognize, someone could have applied for credit in your name. And if you spot accounts you didn’t open or judgments against you for debt you didn’t know about, you’ve been a victim of fraud. Take action immediately by contacting the police, credit reporting agencies, and your credit card company.

You can keep your cards safe

These steps are easy and virtually effortless. And they significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to credit card fraud. Being vigilant about security is essential at a time of increasing fraud risk. Get started today and take steps to protect your cards and your identity.

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This article was originally published on Fool.com