Credit card fraud is when a thief uses your card to buy things or even take money out of an account. Fortunately, the law limits your liability in cases of credit card fraud.

Identity theft, on the other hand, is a type of fraud in which a thief uses your personal information—such as a Social Security number—to set up new accounts or receive other benefits in your name. Here are a few steps to take if your identity is stolen or if you’re the victim of credit card fraud, read on.

If you suspect credit card fraud: If you notice suspicious charges on your credit card and suspect fraud, contact your credit card company immediately.

The company can:

• Help you verify whether fraud has occurred
• Remove fraudulent charges
• Close your account to prevent any further fraudulent transactions
• Issue you a new account number and new card, and transfer your old information to the new account

Additionally, it’s a good idea to check your credit report to make sure nothing looks suspicious. Each major credit reporting agency must provide you with a free copy of your report once a year upon request.

Visit to request a free annual credit report. Once you receive your credit report, look for credit inquiries from companies you don’t recognize, accounts you did not authorize and unfamiliar addresses associated with your account. What to do if your identity is stolen: If you begin receiving calls from bill collectors about accounts you’ve never opened, or you go to file your tax return only to find out someone has already filed in your name, you may be a victim of identity theft.

There are steps you can take:

• Contact all your financial institutions im­medi­ately so they can protect your existing accounts by closing them or by adding security measures. Be sure to do this for all of your accounts that may be at risk, including bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts and Social Security.
• Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The alert requests that creditors contact you before opening any new accounts. You can also order a credit report to identify any additional fraudulent activity.
•  Equifax 800.525.6285,  Experian 888.397.3742 TransUnion 800.680.7289
• Contact every company that has an account in your name (including, if necessary, phone companies and other utilities) and alert them to what is happening. They should have protocols to protect your account from being used fraudulently.
• Keep good records, including copies of every communication with creditors and credit reporting agencies, as you try to repair the problem.
• File a police report. Get multiple copies of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases that law en­force­ment agencies use for investigations. Trained counselors are available to help victims.

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