You’re not alone, and you can take a few key steps to regain control: Focus on recovering your losses, protect yourself from future attacks, and share your story.
Note: This is the second post in a series on fraud and identity theft. Click here to read part one.
Every day, Grownups are discovering their checking accounts have been drained, or hundreds of fraudulent transactions were posted to their credit cards. The U.S. accounts for 47 percent of all global credit card fraud, so the likelihood that you’ll be a victim of fraud is very high, even despite new technology like EMV chips.
The good news is you’re not alone, and there are basic steps you can take to regain control. Here are three ways you can respond quickly—and tell your story—if it happens to you.
1. Focus on Recovering Your Losses
Most financial institutions won’t hold you liable for fraud—as long as you do your part in identifying it. They’ll also help you recover your hard-earned cash. If you suspect fraud:
- Call your provider immediately to identify fraudulent transactions, no matter the time of day.
- Respond to automated texts or voicemails that verify suspicious transactions. It can be really hard for providers to figure out which transactions are fraudulent (or legitimate) from data alone, so they often utilize automated services to communicate with you quickly. These calls/texts can be tempting to avoid if they’re clunky and impersonal, but ignore them at your own peril: If you don’t respond, you may sustain greater losses.
- File a claim and ask for provisional credit. Sometimes you can’t file a claim until the fraudulent transactions have fully posted (e.g., several days later), but many organizations will front you the money on a temporary basis, so you’re not out of luck. If you don’t ask for it, though, you may not get it.
Pro tip: Don’t get tripped up by the posted hours for customer service. Most financial institution call centers are staffed during off-hours to ensure that fraud is handled quickly and doesn’t get out of control. They just won’t tell you that up front. Stop, drop, and make that call. Stat.
2. Protect Yourself from Future Attacks
Once your identity has been used to commit fraud, you need to replace your identifying information. (Note: This goes above and beyond the regular precautions you should take to prevent identity theft.) To start:
- Change all your passwords. This includes email, social media, phone, work logins, online banking, etc. If you can name it, change it.
- If you’re the victim of card fraud, change your card and PIN numbers. (They’re not the same as your account number!) Many card issuers will volunteer to do this for you, but it’s still up to you to make sure it happens.
- If someone impersonated you to open account(s) in your name, secure a new government ID and/or consider getting a new Social Security number.
- Sign up for automated alerts. They’re intended to help verify high-risk transactions via text, email, or mobile notifications as soon as they happen. Not all providers offer them, but if they do, don’t miss out.
- Put a fraud alert on your file at each of the three major credit bureaus. This ensures that institutions take extra steps to verify your identity before taking actions such as opening an account in your name. (Note: You can use both fraud alerts and security freezes!)
Pro tip: Many financial providers will want to fully close your account (and open up a new one) if your account number was compromised or if you get a new Social Security number. That’s a no-brainer for a deposit or investment account, but there can be unanticipated repercussions for your credit score. (Longevity is a big factor!) Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and quantify exactly what you think you may gain—or lose—with your choice.
3. Document, errr… Tell Your Story!
Fraud can be a very scary thing, but you’re not alone. Many people are affected. And telling your story can make a big difference.
Merchants lose a lot of money on fraud. To limit those losses, they keep track of card numbers and addresses fraudsters use. This is especially true for online merchants, who may decline to send packages, accept transactions, or process refunds if your info has previously been used to commit fraud. So, if a package arrives with merchandise that you didn’t purchase, don’t sit back and keep it. Notify the vendor and offer to return the goods. They’ll be thankful you paid it forward, and you’ll be all set for future purchases. Win-win!
Even if you report fraud, some financial institutions may deny your claim for losses. Claims can also take a very long time to process. If you have a police report on hand, though, you may have more leverage since you have documentation that you’re the victim of a crime. Furthermore, you’ll have solid proof of exactly what happened many months down the road when memory gets hazy.
You can also file a complaint with several federal agencies:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) supports fair trade and prevents business activities that might be deceptive or unfairly limit competition.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) takes tips and complaints related to securities (e.g., Ponzi schemes and investment scams).
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) specifically protects consumers, ensures that financial companies treat you fairly, and delivers complaints to companies on your behalf.
Pro tip: The CFPB is interested in more than complaints. They want to hear about your experiences, answer your questions, and help you connect with other people with similar experiences. (Awesome, right?) If a complaint feels like overkill—or you just need to know you’re not alone—you can still pay it forward by telling your story, finding others like you, and contributing to a safer (and more friendly) marketplace for everyone.
Prior to becoming a Product Manager at Society of Grownups, Ceceilia Allwein worked with credit- and debit-card products for a global retail bank.
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under our control. We cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites. Society of Grownups does not give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from a tax or legal professional.