BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Since the coronavirus shut down the US economy a couple of months ago, Fidelity National Information Services, a fraud-monitoring service for banks, has seen a big jump in attempted credit card scams.
“People are doing more online shopping, of course the scammers are targeting them at a greater rate,” said Carmen Million of the Better Business Bureau.
Sixty-one thousand people filed complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic to the Federal Trade Commission. Over half of those complaints are related to fraudulent activity, mostly reaching you through online shopping and vacation deals.
Million says, because people took to online shopping for their safety and convenience during the stay-at-home order, fraudsters became more active to try to steal personal banking information. She suggests that before you click check out, verify the virtual shop is the real deal.
One way to know you are shopping on a secure website is by looking at the URL. You want to see the letters https at the beginning of the link to know your information is protected.
If you do find a safe place to shop online, Million recommends you use a credit card or PayPal account at checkout instead of your debit card. That way, if a fraudster does get your information, there is more time to stop the transaction before it completely goes through.
And don’t forget to pay attention to those credit statements and reports. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, you could get a free credit report once a year to check your credit score and activity. Now, the three main credit report agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion offer free weekly online reports through April 2021 at Annualcreditreport.com.
“Keep an eye on your credit card charges,” said Million. “You want to make sure that the only thing that’s charged on your account is what you agreed to.”
That’s because if any dollar looks out of place, then there could be a problem.
“If you see anything unusual, even if it’s tiny charge of less than a dollar, then that could be a sign that somebody has compromised your information,” said Sara Rathner, a credit card expert with NerdWallet.
Rathner says look at your statements at least once a month, if not more often than that. And play around with the settings in your online or mobile bank account to set up security alerts. Your bank can send you emails or text messages if there is suspicious behavior with your account.
“That can often be the first sign that something is wrong,” said Rathner.
If something is wrong, then report it.
“You don’t have unlimited credit,” she said. “They’re spending your money. And they’re going to get bolder and bolder spending larger amounts of money once they notice you’re not stopping them.”
Call the number on the back your credit card and dispute the charges.
Your bank can put a freeze on that card or stop activity on the account altogether. Then, they will send you a new card to replace the compromised one.
Rathner explains that by federal law, you are not responsible for more than $50 of fraudulent charges, but it’s important that you catch the activity early to put a stop to it.
These practices to protect your credit are good for now and always.
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