The problems of identity theft have been widely discussed and written about but identity theft is not the only type of credit card fraud consumers must be aware of.
A thief needs relatively little information to steal your financial information and place charges against your credit accounts. The simple method is to steal a credit card as all the information necessary to add to the debt of that account is contained on the card itself.
With only your social security number and birth date, your identity can be stolen. It can take months or even years to straighten out the financial mess that may result if you are a victim of identity theft.
How can you prove fraudelent use of your cards after the fact? Merchants are often wary of consumers who claim “I didn’t charge that” or “I didn’t order that”.
The skepticism of credit card lenders, merchants and credit rating agencies may seem over the top. However, another growing fraud problem for credit issuing banks and for merchants is consumer fraud.
Unscrupulous buyers have discovered they can claim fraud and get their money back or not be forced to pay for charges. The number of consumers who think it is acceptable to file a chargeback on a card for a product they don’t like or wish they had not purchased is growing rapidly.
In addition, online buying has grown almost exponentially in the past years. One common claim is for “unauthorized use of credit card”. This occurs frequently in family settings.
How can you prove fraud when the unauthorized charges to your account were made by an irresponsible partner or underage teen? Your credit card was available to them as the person lives with you.
They may not be an authorized user of your credit account – but the merchant selling a product online can’t see who is using the credit card.
Steps To Take
The first thing you must do is carefully read your monthly statements for each credit card account you have. The most important step in how to prove credit card fraud is reporting the fraudulent charges immediately to your credit card lender.
This will stop further charges on the card and alert the lender to the problem. You are not liable for the full amount of the charges as your liability is limited by law.
However, if the fraud goes unnoticed and unreported for some time, it can add to your problems. How can you prove a fraud when charges have been made to your account for many months without you noticing it?
Further Steps to Take
When you contact the bank that issued the credit card that has been compromised, ask them to cancel the card immediately. They will issue you a new card with a new account number and password. Avoid PIN numbers and passwords that are easy to guess.
Report credit card fraud to the police with as much documentation as you can provide. Get a copy of the police report to submit to your credit card lender as proof.
Local police departments may be hesitant to write up formal charges for crimes of identity theft but if you are persistent most will write a report.
Look closely to see if only your credit card was compromised. Are there checks missing from your checkbook? Do you have your driver’s license and other credit cards in your possession?
Cooperate with the bank that issued the credit card. You may be asked to complete an affidavit by credit card issuing banks where fraudulent accounts were established in your name and may be advised to have the affidavit notarized.
You can find a notary at your local bank branch and when identity theft is involved there may be no charge to have papers notarized.
Credit bureaus have fraud units. Call Experian, Equivax and TransUnion and report the theft of your credit cards and ask that your accounts be “flagged”. Provide the account numbers when you call.
Get a address to use to send a statement to the credit bureaus about the fraudulent activity. This is called a victim statement and it is critical to ask each of the three agencies to include the victim statement in your credit file.
Preventing fraud from happening is an easier path to take. Many of the precautions are simple common sense. Do not leave your credit cards or ATM cards where family, friends or thieves can easily access them.
Do not write your PIN number on your credit card or ATM card. If you can’t remember the access code, ask to have it changed to one that is easier to commit to memory. Protect your credit cards as if they are cash – because that is what they represent.