If someone intentionally lies in order to convince another person to part with an item of value, that individual is guilty of fraud and is considered a criminal. In recent years credit card fraud has become one of the most common forms of fraud, with signs that typically include the following:
- Your credit card statement includes purchases you don't recognize.
- You receive a call or letter stating that you have been approved for or denied credit by a creditor—but you have never applied to that creditor for an account.
- You receive credit card, utility, or telephone statements in your name and address—but you never applied for the card or the services.
- You no longer receive your credit card statements, or you notice that you no longer are receiving all of your mail.
- You get a call from a collection agency for a defaulted account established with your identity—but you never opened the account.
Although it's not always possible to detect credit card fraud before it happens, you can take some precautionary measures to avoid becoming a victim:
- Sign your cards as soon as they arrive.
- Carry your cards separately from your wallet. Try a zippered compartment, a business-card holder, or a small pouch.
- Keep a record of your account numbers and their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each financial institution in a secure place. Be sure to write down or photocopy the 800 number and address located on the back of each card.
- Keep an eye on your card during each transaction, and get it back in your possession as quickly as possible.
- Write “void” across incorrect receipts before discarding.
- Save all receipts to compare with billing statements.
- Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would with your checking account.
- Call the credit card issuer immediately with any questionable charges.
- Notify card companies in advance of a change in address.
- Lend your cards to anyone.
- Leave cards or receipts lying around.
- Sign a blank receipt. When you sign a receipt, draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
- Write your account number on envelopes or postcards you are mailing.
- Give out your account number over the phone unless you placed the call and it is to a company that you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or the Better Business Bureau.
Help protect your family and friends by sharing this information with them so that they, too, can keep their personal financial information and records safe.