Credit card fraud has been on the rise for the past decade. In 2018, the World Bank estimated credit card fraud related loses at 24 billion. Criminals use various techniques and software to obtain information from unsuspecting users.
Most of the time, those who fall victim to credit card fraud often realize they’ve been scammed when it’s too late. Even modern credit cards complete with high-tech security features are not completely safe.
Not only are they vulnerable to hacking, but they can also be physically modified and counterfeited in a manner that can be difficult for systems to detect.
What is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud refers to acts of theft or deceit using a physical debit or credit card or just the details to make payments or obtain money without the owner’s approval. It is an illegal activity that is punishable by law.
The penalties are dependent on the specifics of the crimes and the levels of their seriousness, ranging from 1 to 20 years in prison or an equal corresponding fine.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft refers to the deliberate use of someone else’s personal information without the person’s knowledge to commit to commit fraud or to gain financial benefits. It is increasingly becoming a global menace as fraudsters continue to discover more ways to get hold of the information.
Personal information ranges from name, IC number, address, banking and credit card account numbers, medical records, email address and date of birth.
How Do Fraudsters Get Your Personal Information?
The most common ways include:
- Hacking company databases to steal personal information.
- A data breach, making telemarketing calls to ask for account information or personal information.
- Stealing mail from residential mailboxes.
- You may also provide easy access to your details by careless behaviors such as failure to password-protected. your phone and laptops or accidentally downloading spyware and malware.
What Can Identity Thieves Do With the Stolen Information?
- Open a bank account.
- Obtain credit cards and loans.
- Buy expensive items at your expense.
- Takeover your existing accounts.
- Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driver’s licenses in your name.
- Use your identity to commit grave crimes.
Methods of identity theft evolve rapidly as technology changes such as social media develop quickly, making it virtually impossible to completely prevent identity theft. However it possible to reduce the likelihood of being a target by taking certain precautions such as:
- Protect your online privacy and limit what you share on social media.
- Beware of suspicious emails that may be phishing scams.
- Destroy all documents containing your personal information rather than just disposing them off.
- Change your account password regularly.
- Check your credit profile regularly for unauthorized transactions.
- Sign up for an identity theft protection service such as CTOS secureID.
What to Do If You Are a Victim
A victim of credit card fraud or identity theft could go for days or even months before noticing something strange is going on. There have been cases where criminals have gone to the extent of filing tax reforms in the victim’s name and even take tax refunds for years.
The tip-off could be past due mail or a phone call from a collection agency about a debt you know nothing about. At that point, a lot of damage could have been done. Either way, if you notice something wrong, the most important thing is to act quickly.
Credit card fraud and identity thefts are becoming pretty common, but they are still hard crimes for authorities to crack. So most victims have to be very proactive in trying to regain their identities or bank accounts back under their control. To be safe, you need to be your own best detective on the case.
Here is a list of some of essential things you should do:
1. Contact the Credit Card Company Immediately
File an initial fraud alert with the credit card company or by calling either of the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax or TransUnion – and agree on whether to freeze your credit card or the bank account as a whole.
With a fraud alert, businesses will have to check your credit report to open a new credit line. If they see a fraud alert on your report, they may try to contact you to verify your identity before conducting any transaction. The alert will stay on your account for three days.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Bank Statements
What you don’t look could cost you money. You may have noticed something strange in your credit card, but most probably the perpetrators are not aware that their fraud has already been discovered.
More and more creepy unusual charges may continue showing up on your credit card statement or bank statement. The only way to find out is by continually checking the reports. This can help inform your decision to freeze the accounts or even with tracing the fraudsters.
3. Request a Copy of Your Credit Card Report
In case you are suspecting anything fishy with your credit card, the only way to be sure is by checking your credit card report. Immediately apply for a credit card report detailing your public and personal records, credit account history and any inquiries you have made regarding your credit.
This can be done by contacting your credit service providers or simply by calling (877) 322-8228. Alternatively, you can mail Annual Credit Report Request Service through P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta.
Types of Credit Card Fraud
a. Stealing a Credit Card
Credit card thieves are the new generation pickpockets. You may think your credit card is safe and secure in your wallet inside your purse, but you’re mistaken. High-tech crooks have new ways to rip you off.
This can happen during a trip to the mall, while you are at a tiger game when walking down the street, literally anywhere in the shortest unimaginable time.
These days, they don’t even need to still the physical credit card. Electronic pickpockets use sophisticated gadgets placed in proximity to your cards to obtain your details. Stealing, either the physical credit card or details, and using them is a heinous offence punishable by law.
b. Using a Lost or Found Credit Card
Did you know that you can be charged, prosecuted and jailed for using a lost and found credit card to do your shopping? Well, now you know because in a court of justice ignorance is no defense.
While you are not bound by law to look for the owner of the card or make efforts to return it to them, it is illegal to use or even try to use the card without the owner’s consent.
c. Account Takeover (Someone Pretends They Are You and Contacts Your Bank)
Account theft is a fast-growing form of identity theft. It is malicious access to an online account by a fraudster posing as a genuine customer, gaining control of the account and making unauthorized transactions.
Duplicate Counterfeit Cards
Duplicating your card involves making an exact copy of the victim’s credit or ATM card and using them either to foot your bills or to siphon money from their bank accounts without their knowledge.
Generally, one thing that cuts across is that for fraudsters to exploit you, they must have very important bits of your data. Take care of your personal data, and credit fraud will take care of itself.