Oakland, CA., April 13, 2012 – Reports that millions of credit card numbers may have been compromised recently are a timely reminder that consumers need to stay on top of their credit card accounts, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises.
“Most of us depend on being able to use credit cards for everyday purchases,” said Gene O’Neil, BBB president and CEO. “When identity thieves strike, we may feel powerless, but there are steps we all can take to safeguard our accounts.”
Normally, credit card issuers will notify customers if their accounts have been compromised. The issuer may send you a new card and freeze the old account. Some companies will offer fraud monitoring services for a limited period of time. If they do, find out whether the service will result in a charge to your account and how you can cancel the service it you don’t want to keep paying for it.
Although most credit card companies don’t charge cardholders for fraudulent charges on their accounts, customers need to check their accounts for potential fraud not detected by a card issuer’s computers. You should look at transactions on the account regularly to make sure you actually made the purchases listed. Report any discrepancies immediately.
Most card issuers allow cardholders to check their accounts online. Some ID theft experts recommend that consumers switch to electronic delivery of credit card statements, especially if your mailbox isn’t secure. This prevents thieves from stealing your mail to commit ID theft. If you get mailed statements, go over them regularly to determine that all the charges are legitimate. Shred outdated statements at the BBB’s Shred Day April 21.
Another important step is checking your credit report on a regular basis. If you see accounts there that you didn’t open, contact the issuer to report potential fraud. You may want to consider getting a “credit freeze” that will prevent the opening of new accounts.
Many advertisements on television or online claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring.” Often, the service is free only if you sign up for another service that isn’t free. In some cases, the advertisers may be attempting to steal your identity or sign you up for something that results in a monthly fee charged to a credit card. Beware of links in unsolicited emails that ask for personal information or account numbers.
The only way to get a truly free copy of a credit report is by using a service sponsored by the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion. The service is available at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Consumers also may go to the website and download a request form that can be mailed to an address in Atlanta. Mailed reports normally arrive within two or three weeks.
Other tips that can help safeguard your accounts
- Review receipts at stores before you sign them. Make sure the amounts jive with what you are purchasing.
- Keep copies of ATM and sales receipts for your records and compare them with your monthly statements. Call the credit card company if you find a discrepancy. If fraud is involved, consider filing a police report.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using your card. Could someone be looking over your shoulder to see your account number or the security code on the back?
- Don’t leave cards unattended or in plain sight. Watch to see how the store or restaurant handles the card, and put it away immediately when you get it back.
- If you are traveling, especially overseas, tell your card issuer where you will be and for how long.
- Report missing cards immediately to the issuer.
- Consider canceling inactive accounts.
- Shred outdated but sensitive documents in a home shredder or bring up to three boxes or bags of documents for free shredding at the BBB’s Shred Day on Saturday, April 21 at San Mateo Credit Union, 150 El Camino Real, South San Francisco. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..
Before you do business with a company, check its free BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 866-411-2221.
About the BBB
The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Reviews on businesses and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM on charities, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. Please visit www.goldengate.bbb.org for more information or contact Rex Albright (510) 844-2068.