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It’s more than likely you have or will be the victim of credit card fraud in your lifetime. Here are five tips on avoiding fraud, and five tips on what to do if you fall prey to it.

5 ways to avoid fraud

1. Know who you’re dealing with

When you’ve seen something you want to buy online, take the time to find a seller’s physical address (not a post office box), and phone number. Search for the company name and website, and look for reviews. Sites such as eBay will offer feedback and ratings on sellers. If people have negative things to say, think about what you’re buying. It is only a good deal if what you get does what you want it to.


2. Don’t wire money

Wiring money is like sending cash. Con artists will often insist potential victims wire money, especially overseas, because it is very difficult to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Don’t wire money to anyone you have any suspicions about.

3. Read your statements

If you’re seeing charges you don’t recognize on your statements, then you’re probably the victim of a scam. Scammers can bill your account for purchases they made. Crooked merchants can bill you for mysterious “membership fees” that can siphon money out of your account. If you see a charge like this, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.

4. Only give to established charities

A classic trick scammers use is to claim they are from a humanitarian agency sending aid to recent disaster victims. Shy away from these pop-up charities – even if they are real, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get help to the affected people. For more donating tips, visit ftc.gov/charity-scams.

5. Be thorough about health care purchases

It’s easy to believe everything you read or hear about a product’s claims – they will often try to make you believe they will fix all your issues quickly and painlessly. As painful as it might be, take the time to ask critical questions. Ask about research that supports a product’s claims — and possible risks or side effects. In addition, buy prescription drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired, or mislabeled — in short, products that could be dangerous to your health.

5 ways to fight fraud charges

1. Catch it early

By regularly checking your accounts, you can quickly spot suspicious activity. The quicker you spot an anomaly, the quicker you can get it stopped and your credit put back together.

2. Call the bank

The first thing to do – immediately, if not sooner – is call your bank or credit card company. Any lending institution worth its salt has a 24/7 customer service number to deal with these issues. Cancel the card, get a new one issued, and make sure nothing else is happening with any other accounts you have with that institution.

3. File a fraud alert

Contact one of the credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax or TransUnion – and have a fraud alert placed on your credit file. This will make it more difficult for anyone – including yourself – to open lines of credit using your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity first before issuing credit, so it should try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days, at which point it can be renewed.

4. Check your credit report

When you file a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each company. Review these closely to make sure there haven’t been any ongoing problems that you may not have noticed.

5. Be proactive

Keep some basic financial safety tips in mind to help prevent fraud from happening. For example, keep the minimum of credit cards in your wallet – a primary and a backup – in your wallet at any one time, and leave the others at home in a secure location. Never share your financial numbers via e-mail, and change your passwords regularly.

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