Guide to Identifying and Reporting Credit Card Fraud

By Jennifer Calonia · September 26, 2022 · 6 minute read

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Guide to Identifying and Reporting Credit Card Fraud

Credit cards are a convenient method of payment that let you make cashless purchases in-person or online. However, millions of Americans fall victim to credit card fraud, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Identifying fraudulent activity and knowing how to report credit card fraud can help protect identity and your finances. Here’s a closer look at the process of reporting credit card fraud.

What Is Credit Card Fraud?

Credit card fraud is a type of identity theft. When a perpetrator commits credit card fraud, they’re making unauthorized purchases or cash advances using a credit card account that isn’t theirs.

Types of Credit Card Fraud

Fraudsters have developed many types of credit card scams to infiltrate unsuspecting consumers’ credit card accounts.

Account Takeover

An account takeover involves the perpetrator contacting the credit card issuer to make fraudulent changes or requests to gain access to your account. For example, they might claim to be you and request a new credit card issued to their address.

Card-Not-Present (CNP)

Card-not-present, or CNP, credit card fraud occurs when an unauthorized charge is put onto a card account without the physical card being present during the transaction. This might occur during online purchases or other instances when a transaction is performed without the physical card in hand.

Credit Card Skimming

Credit card skimming occurs when a skimmer device is placed onto a legitimate credit card sales terminal. It’s designed to look seamless and authentic. Upon swiping your credit card through the skimmer, the device captures your account data, including your credit card number, PIN, CVV number on a credit card, and more. Perpetrators can then create a copy-cat credit card with your account information encoded into it.

Fraudulent Card Applications

This type of credit card fraud occurs when someone opens a new card account under your name without your consent and/or knowledge. Fraudulent applications might lead to newly opened credit card accounts through pre-approval mailers that are intercepted by fraudsters.

Lost or Stolen Cards

A lost or stolen credit card is another common method of credit card fraud. Unlike CNP, the perpetrator obtains possession of your physical credit card and makes unauthorized charges. If your card is lost or stolen and then used before you realize it’s missing, an unauthorized user can make fraudulent changes in person or online.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

How to Detect Credit Card Fraud

A key way to uproot credit card fraud is by staying keenly aware of the activity on your existing credit card accounts. For example, with the convenience of automatic payments, it might be easy to ignore reviewing your monthly statement since autopay lets you pay your bills without much effort.

However, if you didn’t notice an unauthorized charge come through because you aren’t keeping track of your transaction activity, it can become that much harder to thwart further fraud. Additionally, routinely reviewing your credit reports can help you flag any new credit card accounts that you didn’t activate.

You might also consider setting up credit card alerts, which can notify you when purchases or cash advances are made using your card. You can set these up through your card issuer’s mobile app and opt to receive a text message, email, or push notification. These frequent updates can help you respond quickly if anything goes awry.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

How to Report Credit Card Fraud

If you’ve found fraudulent activity on your card account, there are steps you can take to minimize your liability for the unauthorized charges.

Contacting Your Credit Card Issuer

As soon as you notice a fraudulent charge, contact your card issuer’s fraud department immediately. Report the unauthorized charge and explain that it was made without your knowledge or consent.

Typically, the issuer will immediately deactivate the old credit card and reissue you a new card to avoid further unauthorized transactions. If you haven’t done so already, change your online password for the compromised credit card account. Also, change the PIN for your card.

Reaching Out to the Credit Bureaus

Contact one of the three credit bureaus to submit a fraud alert. Doing so requires businesses to verify your identity before opening a new credit account under your name. This fraud alert is free to request and remains active for one year.

The credit bureau you contacted is required to inform the other two bureaus of the fraud alert on your credit. Request a copy of your credit report from each bureau and review them for any other suspicious activity.

Notifying the Authorities

Report credit card fraud to the Federal Trade Commission through its website, , or by calling 1 (877) 438-4338. By reporting the fraud to FTC authorities, your rights in relation to the fraud are reserved. The FTC will file the report and come up with a recovery plan.

You can also choose to file a fraud report with your local police department. Request a copy of the police report for your records.

How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

Following a few practical credit card rules can help you reduce your exposure to potential credit card fraud:

•   Review your credit card statements regularly.

•   Observe your credit card and bank transactions for anything that’s incorrect or potentially fraudulent.

•   Track changes on your credit report.

•   Keep your credit card information private.

•   Set up mobile alerts on transactions through your card issuer.

How Credit Card Fraud Can Impact Your Credit

Credit card fraud can do incredible harm to your creditworthiness if it goes undetected. It can result in a sudden uptick in outstanding balances, which impacts your credit utilization ratio and can adversely affect your score.

It can also be problematic to your credit if new credit card accounts were activated under your name without your knowledge. In this scenario, the unauthorized account and charges incurred go unpaid, which can negatively affect your payment history.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

Reporting credit card fraud is essential to avoid being liable for unauthorized charges or changes to your account. Stay apprised of your credit card activity by reviewing your credit card transactions at regular intervals and routinely checking your credit report for suspicious issues.

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What happens when you report credit card fraud?

Upon reporting credit card fraud on your account, the card issuer initiates an investigation into the unauthorized charge or fraudulent claim. It might reissue you a new card to use while it conducts its investigation. It if confirms that fraud occurred, your maximum liability for an unauthorized charge is $50, depending on when you reported the fraud and/or lost or stolen card.

What do I do if I suspect a fraud card?

If you suspect that you were a victim of credit card fraud, immediately contact your card issuer to notify them of the unauthorized activity. Request a copy of your credit report to confirm that no other suspicious activity is associated with your credit. Finally, file an identity theft report through or with local authorities.

Can the bank find out who used my credit card?

The bank can trace the details of the unauthorized activity. These details include the merchant where the card was fraudulently used as payment; the transaction date, time, and amount; and the buyer’s IP address.

How do I claim credit fraud?

To claim credit card fraud, contact your credit card issuer. You can call the phone number listed on the back of your card or call the issuer’s fraud department directly to report the unauthorized activity and request an investigation.

Photo credit: iStock/Moon Safari

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