Important Things To Do After Your Credit Card Number Is Stolen & How To Prevent It

Important Things To Do After Your Credit Card Number Is Stolen & How To Prevent It

June 6, 2014         Written By Justin Hefner

Have you had your credit card stolen? Are you worried that someone might be using your identity to make purchases? This can be an intensely frustrating situation, but the first thing that you should do is stay calm. This will help you take quick and effective steps to cancel your cards and limit your liability. There are plenty of options available to cardholders if their card is stolen or used without their authorization. Credit card companies are very understanding and willing to work with you to correct the problem. You will also have to file an identity theft report with law enforcement. After following the steps below, you’ll be able to get past your stolen credit card and better protect yourself from this happening in the future.

Contact Your Card Issuer

If you believe you have had your credit card stolen, the first step is to contact your card issuer. That would be the bank or credit union that issued the card when you opened an account. You can do that by using the toll-free number found on the back of your card, your billing statements and the company’s website. The company will then shut off your current card and mail a new one to your current address. This is always the first step that you should take, as it will quickly prevent the thief from being able to make any more purchases with your card. This will give you peace of mind as you go through the rest of the process, knowing that the biggest issue has already been tackled.

Check Your Credit Report

The next step can be a little overwhelming for some people–having to check your credit report. Credit reports can be intimidating at any time, but when you are checking for possible fraud, that can be even tougher. You can either call one of the major credit bureaus–Experian, TransUnion or Equifax–or use their websites to check your report online. You will be able to look for unauthorized purchases in addition to placing an Initial Fraud Alert on your credit file. The alert will last for 90 days. Credit reports are a valuable tool, and even if you do not believe that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, you should check them periodically. (You are allowed one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.) Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve been an identity fraud victim until it’s too late. If you have been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, you’ll want to check your credit report every few months for the next year.

File An Identity Theft Report With Law Enforcement

If you find that someone has definitely stolen your credit card or identity, you should file an Identity Theft Report with the police. Depending on the situation, you might have to contact local, state or federal officials. Once you have filed the report, you’ll need to send copies to the credit bureaus, banks and any other financial institutions that have been affected. If you also choose to file an FTC complaint, then the information about your case will be entered into a secure online database that will be available to civil and criminal law enforcement across the world.

Update Accounts

The next step is to update all of your online accounts. You should change passwords and carefully review all your statements on recurring bills, such as utility statements. Be extra vigilant to change passwords that are shared for different accounts. You never want to have the same password giving potential thieves access to multiple financial accounts. If you have a PIN number, you’ll also want to change that. In addition, you’ll want to keep records of all of the changes that you make–but make sure they are stored in a secure location. That way, you can stay up to date with your account changes, and you will have access to all of the calls, letters and emails that you have exchanged with law enforcement and financial institutions about the matter.

Remain Proactive

If you have had your credit card or your identity stolen, it is important to remain vigilant. There are federal laws in place that limit your credit card liability to $50. But if your debit card has been stolen, that figure could be very different. If you report the theft within two business days, then your maximum debit card liability is $50. But if you wait until after that two-day period, your liability could increase to $500. If you don’t contact your financial institution within 60 days, you could be liable for the entire fraudulent amount. That is why debit card users should remain even more proactive at checking their credit and staying on top of all of their financial statements.

There are various preventative measures that can be taken to safeguard your information, including using only the most up to date anti-virus and anti-spyware on your computer. You’ll also want to keep financial information safe–never respond to unsolicited emails or phone calls with information such as card or social security numbers. You’ll want to make sure to change all your passwords on a regular basis and check your receipts before and after signing them. There are plenty of institutions that want to help you remain safe, including your bank, credit bureaus, the FTC and the FBI. All of those organizations have free information online to help protect you from credit card and identity theft before it happens.

We are moving to a cashless society, so the threat of identity theft will increase in the years to come. Retailers need to take major steps to protect their customers. But there are a number of steps that consumers can do to both prevent and limit credit card fraud.

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

If your credit card or identity is stolen, you need to react.  But prior to that, there are simple steps you can take to prevent identity theft and credit card theft in the first place.

  1. Don’t publicly post anything you may use as a password: your birth date, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, or your school. Identity thieves can use the information you post to guess your password.
  2. Regularly review your statements from your accounts. Make sure all the purchases that appear are transactions that you actually authorized.
  3. Pay attention to your monthly bills and follow up with creditors if one does not arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has changed your billing address to cover his/her tracks.
  4. Put a fraud alert on your account. It will notify creditors to verify your identification before issuing credit in your name. A security freeze prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit report without your consent. The credit reporting company may charge a fee to place or remove a security freeze.
  5. If you are moving, notify credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or telephone number. Contact the sender if your statements are not received in the mail by their usual time.
  6. Watch your mail. When a breach occurs and you were exposed, the company is required to send you a notification letter with an explanation and what to do. It may also offer a free credit monitoring service to monitor your account and pay for the initial cost of a security freeze. These letters are easy to miss and throw away because they look like junk mail and may come from an unfamiliar third party service.
  7. Several times a year, order your credit report from one or more of the national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). This costs $10 per report. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year at
  8. If you use a wireless router, enable the encryption to scramble the data you send online.
  9. Shred the following items you get in the mail: receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, convenience checks, and credit offers. Clean the receipts out of your wallet and car several times a week.
  10. Mail anything with personal information or payment at the post office, not from your mailbox.

If you suspect identity theft, there are a number of steps you should take:

  • Notify the company about the data breach, as well as law enforcement authorities, all three credit reporting agencies, and the FTC.
  • Close any credit and debit accounts that may have been compromised by theft or loss.
  • Your credit card issuer offers protection against unauthorized purchases. Under federal law, your maximum liability for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50. If you find unauthorized charges on your billing statement, send a letter to your issuer describing each charge. Include the date your card was lost or stolen, when you first noticed the problem and when you first reported it. Send this letter to the address for billing errors.
  • Keep up with all paperwork that involves your fraud case. You will probably be asked to provide corroborating evidence of the unauthorized transaction or identity theft. This includes a signed affidavit, law enforcement or governmental agency reports, receipts of expenses, and insurance declaration forms.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of June 6, 2014. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Justin Hefner

Justin Hefner is in the education field and has written about a number of financial issues. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Tech University and a Masters in Education from Texas State University.
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