Surprisingly, credit card compromises may be the easiest type of hack to deal with. You’re not responsible for any fraudulent charges in excess of $50, and once you’re issued a new card, the problem has been solved, save for some changes to your personal habits.
Detect the account theft as quickly as possible
The easiest way to quickly detect a compromised financial account is to thoroughly read, and understand, your credit card bills and online banking statements. The key here is to recognize every little charge and to know what each line of information means. Hackers will often test a stolen account by using it for a very small purchase (e.g., a pack of gum at a gas station) before making much larger purchases, like a shiny 72” plasma TV. Read your statements often, and if you don’t recognize something, contact your financial institution immediately.
Steps to take after your account has been stolen
The FTC provides a thorough online guide on how to deal with identity theft. You will:
- file an initial fraud report with one of the US’s three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion)
- order credit reports from all three of them
- contact the fraud department of your credit card or bank
- file an official identity theft report with the FTC.
During this process, your bank will probably freeze the affected account. Luckily, the identity theft report will prevent all disputed activity from appearing on your credit report and ruining your credit score.
Staying safe in the future
Being smart about how you handle and understand your personal information is key in protecting your credit card accounts. Constant vigilance, staying on top of your bills, and keeping track of your physical cards should be your top priorities. Additionally, never shop at shady retailers, real world or online. If an online deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never provide personal information if it’s not absolutely necessary. If a site that won’t be shipping you anything asks for your street address, reconsider whether the site can be trusted.
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