With less reliance on cash and an increase in online transactions, credit card fraud has become a major problem. In fact, 2021 was one of the most eventful years for credit card fraud, with approximately 2.8 million consumers filing fraud reports with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—and online shopping scams were the second most commonly reported category.
Amid the holiday shopping season, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about credit card fraud. In a 2022 CreditRepair.com survey, 73% of respondents said they’re worried they will fall victim to a credit card scam at some point.
What’s more, scamming techniques and technologies continue to evolve, and experienced scammers can be quite skilled at getting what they want (your money). Staying up to date on circulating scams and their warning signs can help you protect your financial assets. Red flags to look out for include:
- Unsolicited texts, calls, or emails: Communication from unknown senders is a sign you’re most likely being targeted by scammers.
- Unauthorized charges: Check your credit card accounts for signs of unusual payment activity or transactions you don’t remember making—even if they’re small. Scammers will usually make small purchases before attempting a larger transaction.
- Suspicious activity alerts: If your bank or one of the three major credit bureaus notices any suspicious activity on your account, they’ll notify you.
We’ll go over some more specific areas of concern and prevention tips below.
Be Aware of Social Media and Other Websites
The anonymity of the internet makes it the ideal place for scammers to conduct fraudulent activity. And consumers know it—50% of respondents in the 2022 survey said they’re worried about encountering credit card scams on websites or social media.
Scammers will go to great lengths to get the information they’re after. For example, they may create fake social media profiles to target individuals and steal their private information. Or, they may use malware to steal the login information of an existing social media account, then send malicious links to the person’s connections or ask them for money.
Malicious emails and phishing scams are also often used to steal personal data. In the same 2022 survey, 21% of participants reported that they were concerned about email credit card scams.
Scammers may even pose as a bank, utility, or credit card company, sending messages that attempt to get you to hand over sensitive financial information.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams
As scary as credit card scams may be, there are many ways you can protect your personal and financial information. The best way to do so is through preventative measures, including:
- Not clicking on suspicious links or attachments: Scammers will use links to get you to give up personal information. These links may even contain malware that automatically downloads onto your device when you click.
- Not emailing account information: Avoid sending sensitive data through email, especially if you’re using an unsecure internet connection.
- Watching for spelling and grammar errors: Poor spelling, grammar, and imagery can be a telltale sign that a message or pop-up is fraudulent.
- Enabling multifactor authentication: Requiring two or more credentials to log in to your accounts can make it more difficult for scammers to access your information—even if they have your username and password.
- Checking your statements regularly: Look for any unfamiliar transactions, especially small ones. The sooner you notice suspicious activity, the faster you can address it.
If you notice any of the warning signs we mentioned earlier and suspect fraudulent activity, take swift action by:
- Freezing your accounts: Contact your credit card issuer or bank to freeze the compromised account(s) immediately.
- Activating a fraud alert: Activate a fraud alert with all three credit bureaus to help prevent future thefts and protect your credit score.
- Changing your passwords: To be safe, change your login information for all financial accounts.
- Monitoring your credit card statements: Continue to check your bank and credit card statements for a few months after the fraud occurs, as it could take time for charges to appear.
While fraud detection and prevention may seem intimidating, the extra effort to educate and prepare yourself will be well worth it if it means protecting your credit score and even your identity.
Samantha Edwards is a San Diego-based editor and writer. Her background in journalism and public relations has led her to cover unique topics ranging from timeshares to pet lifestyle to local news to SMS marketing. When she’s not writing, you can find her walking her dog, baking cookies, or traveling.