What is credit card fraud – can you prevent it from happening to you?

What is credit card fraud?

It’s when your credit card details are stolen by fraudsters, who either use them to make payments, or to sell them on to other criminals. This activity may even have an effect on your credit report, for example, if the fraudsters have exceeded your credit card limit.

Signs that you may have been a victim of credit card fraud

Sometimes it’s possible to spot if you’ve fallen foul of fraudsters who’ve stolen your credit card details. Signs that might suggest this include the following:

  • Your card is rejected when you try to use it to make a payment.
  • Your credit card or bank statements show purchases that you don’t remember making.
  • Your credit card provider lets you know that you’ve exceeded your card limit. This would also be noted on your credit report.

How can credit card fraud happen?

Fraudsters can gain access to your credit card data in a number of ways. These include:

  • Card skimming
    This is when they counterfeit or clone your card without your knowledge.
  • Gaining access to lost or stolen cards
    If they’ve got hold of your card, they’ll be able to use the details to make purchases.
  • Phishing
    They could send you fake emails from companies that seem reputable, asking for your credit card details.
  • Phony online banking websites
    They may set up fake online banking websites in order to gain your details.

How to protect yourself against credit card fraud

There are some steps that you can take to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

  • Keep your credit card in sight when you’re using it – you don’t want to give criminals the opportunity to clone it.
  • Keep your PIN private – don’t use easy-to-guess numbers like your date of birth.
  • Shield your PIN when entering it into a machine – fraudsters could be lurking nearby in the hopes of spotting it.
  • Don’t put your credit card into machines that look like they’ve been tampered with.
  • Try not to provide anyone with your credit card information over the phone or via email.
  • If you hear about a data breach in the news and the company involved holds your personal data, check whether this information has been compromised.
  • Regularly check your credit card and bank statements and credit report to ensure that they haven’t recorded activity that you’re unaware of.
  • When disposing of an old credit card, cut up the chip and magnetic strip.
  • Shred paper copies of credit card statements.
  • Close any unused credit card accounts.
  • Tapping your card to pay for transactions is becoming increasingly popular, around a third of all card transactions are now made without a pin. There are things you can do to protect yourself from contactless card fraud.

What to do if you’re a victim of credit card fraud

If you think you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud, or are sure that you are, let your credit card company know, so that they can investigate. You can also report it to Action Fraud. Finally, you may also want to check your Equifax Credit Report & Score to see if the fraudsters’ activities have affected it – it’s free for the first 30 days, then £14.95 a month after that. In addition to providing you with your credit information, it will also alert you when significant changes have been made to the report, or if we find your financial details have appeared on websites frequented by fraudsters.

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