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Educational Consumer Tips

Credit Card Fraud

Author: Better Business Bureau

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing forms of fraud today. It involves using another person's identity found on credit cards, driver's licenses, birth certificates, social security numbers, and many others to defraud businesses of money or merchandise.

Because credit card use is so efficient for business, especially by phone and on the Internet, it is becoming attractive for crime as well. Anytime the embossed cards with the magnetic strip are not used is an opportunity for ID theft. Any transaction that does not involve cash can be compromised.

Foolproof protection of your good name is impossible but vigilance can significantly reduce your risk. The invention of carbon-less charge forms was just one small effort taken on the part of the credit card companies. There is much more you can do.

- Do not carry your Social Security card.
- Beware of shoulder surfers when you use an ATM. - Guard your financial records and their disposal.
- Review all monthly charge and bank account statements for any unknown entries.
- Be attentive as to when bills arrive and be alert when they don't.
- Secure your mailbox
- Look for the logo, B B B OnLine, on a website that certifies a merchant's commitment to security and privacy or
- Look for an SSL or Secure Socket Layer for online transactions.
- Make it a policy never to make any transactions, even charity requests, on calls that you do not initiate.
- Use the 800 number on the back of all credit cards for contact to confirm any suspicious actions.
- Before signing a credit card bill, verify that the amounts, and total, are correctly shown in ink. After signing the bill, detach, and destroy, any carbons. 
- When you receive a personalized credit card application in the mail and do not intend to apply for the card, tear up the application before discarding it.
- Do not write your credit card number on return cards, or mailers, that can be easily pulled open.
- Avoid giving your credit card number to a telephone solicitor. If you want to learn more about the product or service offered, ask the caller to mail further information to you.
- Contact the merchant if you place a phone order, using your credit card, and do not receive the merchandise within a reasonable period. If a charge for unordered, or undelivered, goods appears on you credit card statement, notify the card issuer, in writing right away.
- Keep a record, in a secure place, of all your credit card account numbers and expiration dates, the name used on the card, and the phone number to call if a card is lost, or stolen. If a card is missing, call the card issuer immediately.
- Generally, you are responsible for up to $50 of unauthorized charges made on a stolen credit card, before you notify the card issuer that the card is missing. When considering the purchase of credit card insurance, take into account this legal limit on your liability. 
- Don't be naive. It can still happen to you.

If you have been victimized, you are understandably angry. You feel helpless or even stupid. But you have no reason to be embarrassed. It happened over a half million times last year. Remain calm.

- Start calling immediately: the police, the credit card companies, and anyone you have credit with.
- Don't forget the Social Security office.
- Keep a record of those contacts and when you contacted them.
- Call the three major credit reporting agencies. Find out the current status of your credit record and tell them about your credit card loss. These are the major credit reporting companies:
Transunion 800-505-2136
Experion 800-680-7289
Equifax 800-301-7198

Finally, there is a lot of help and information available on the Web.

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