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Who to call in the first hours after fraud strikes

Clock is ticking when your card has been skimmed, debit card hacked, ID stolen

By  |  Published: June 2, 2017

Who to call in the first hours after fraud

Someone with a skimmer used your credit card number to rack up charges, or a pickpocket swiped your wallet and hacked your debit card. Sure, you’re angry, but what should you do?

Those first hours are critical after your cards are hacked or skimmed, your identity is stolen or your phone goes missing. In each case, the clock is ticking. Who should you call first?

WHO TO CALL IN THE FIRST HOURS AFTER FRAUD
Type of fraud First call What to do/ask
Credit card skimmed Card issuer Report all the fraudulent charges.
Debit card hacked Your financial institution Note when and where card was hacked.
Identity stolen Financial institutions, then a credit bureau Bureau will put a fraud alert on your credit file. Consider asking for a credit freeze.
Mobile phone goes missing Turn off mobile wallet, call financial institutions and any retailers with apps on your phone. Ask them to flag unusual activity. Go online and change passwords on any other mobile apps.
WHO TO CALL IN THE FIRST HOURS AFTER FRAUD
Type of fraud First call What to do/ask
Credit card skimmed Card issuer Report all the fraudulent charges.
Debit card hacked Your financial institution Note when and where card was hacked.
Identity stolen Financial institutions, then a credit bureau Bureau will put a fraud alert on your credit file. Consider asking for a credit freeze.
Mobile phone goes missing Turn off mobile wallet, call financial institutions and any retailers with apps on your phone. Ask them to flag unusual activity. Go online and change passwords on any other mobile apps.

Credit card skimmed

If your credit card was skimmed:
Skimming of a credit card at a gas station can happen to anyone. Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of the ID Theft Resource Center, and even the Indiana State Police, have been skimming victims.   

When your credit card is skimmed, your first call should be to your card issuer. Check your account and make a list of all the fraudulent charges. “Then you can report all the charges at once,” Velasquez says.

Because gas skimmer theft is increasing and skimmers are nearly impossible to spot now, make a habit of checking your card statement daily or weekly to spot any suspicious charges. This will be a chore through at least October 2020 when EMV technology will be required at gas pumps.

Also, make sure you’re set up to receive alerts when your card is used at gas stations. If you get one of these texts or emails and you didn’t fill your tank, call your issuer. This can stop the fraudster before your card is used again.

In the Indiana State Police case, “We only had one card proven to be compromised, but we turned off several others as a precaution,” said Sgt. John Perrine, public information officer for the Indianapolis district.

“ISP did get reimbursed by the credit card company we use,” he added. 

Any lessons learned? “I think folks just need to be aware of the technology out there to grab this info,” Perrine said.

Debit card hacked

If your debit card was hacked:
When you notice that money has mysteriously disappeared from your checking account, your first call should be to your financial institution.

Why? That sketchy transaction showing on your bank account could be the first of many, says Doug Johnson, senior vice president for payments and cybersecurity policy at the American Bankers Association.

“You never know when other unauthorized transactions will occur,” he says. “Generally, these don’t come one at a time but in groups of two or three like deer crossing the road. ... You want to stop the next ones from going through.”

Next, use online banking to see if you can pinpoint when the card fraud occurred.

That’s what Johnson did when his debit card was hacked.

“I had gone to a gourmet hot dog vendor,” he says. “Immediately after that, there were three or four transactions on the same street. It was pretty easy for me to determine where it happened.”

Now that you know when your debit card was hacked, call the police.

“Law enforcement will let you file a police report if you say ‘I have unauthorized transactions on my account,’” Johnson says. “But it has no meaning to them unless you can find the point of compromise.”

ID stolen

If your identity was stolen:
If you discover someone is spending money, getting loans and opening accounts as you, your instinct may be to close all your credit cards and other accounts.

You never know when other unauthorized transactions will occur,” he says. “Generally, these don’t come one at a time.

— Doug Johnson
American Bankers Association

Don’t do that. Since part of your credit score is based on the amount of time you’ve had credit, closing all your accounts would sink your credit score, says Nancy Bistritz-Balkan, Equifax’s director of public relations and communications.

Instead, your first calls should be to your financial institutions to let them know what happened, Bistritz-Balkan says. Ask them to place a note on your account that you’ve been a fraud victim.

Then, contact one of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and a fraud alert will be placed on your credit file at all three credit bureaus.

A fraud alert means creditors must take extra steps to ensure that it’s really you applying for credit.

For more security, call each of the credit bureaus and have a credit freeze placed on your credit file.

A security credit freeze means no one, not even you, can get credit in your name unless you remove the freeze. Fees may apply in some states.

Next, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website and download the ID theft affidavit.

Finally, file a police report. That police report will be helpful as you work on the FTC’s ID theft affidavit, she says.

From this point forward, monitor your accounts. Identity thieves sometimes wait weeks or months between stealing or buying your data and using that info.

Mobile missing

If your mobile phone goes missing:
When you reach into your pocket for your phone and realize it’s gone, your first thoughts may be that you can’t call your significant other, you’ve lost your contacts and all your photos are gone.

The mobile banking app is not typically the first thing users will think of when they lose their device.

— Don Duncan
Security engineer for NuData Security

“The mobile banking app is not typically the first thing users will think of when they lose their device,” says Don Duncan, security engineer for NuData Security.

But with mobile wallets increasingly on our phones, it should be.

Your first call should be to your phone, and use your “Find my phone” feature, Duncan says. Then go online and turn off your mobile wallet.

Next: Contact your financial institutions and any retailers with apps on your phone so they can flag unusual activity.

“The more time that goes by, the more difficult it can be to prove that the activity was not you,” Duncan says. Then go online and access any other mobile apps and change your passwords.

Next, take action to find or even disable your phone. Use your phone’s geolocation features to force the device to check in, Duncan says. Then, lock the phone remotely so the contents cannot be accessed.

Call your cellphone provider and suspend service, Duncan says. Once you’ve done all this, consider wiping the device remotely.

Finally, file a police report. This can assist you later when you are trying to prove to banks or merchants that you have been a victim of a crime. Also, contact your residential insurance agent because you may be covered for the loss of the phone, Duncan says.

Bottom line: When your bank account has been drained, you’re staring at a maxed-out credit card or some other type of fraud has occurred, don’t dally. When you’re the victim of financial or identity fraud, the clock is ticking.

See related: Suspect card fraud? How to file a claim, Fraud alerts: Your first (and free) layer of protection, How credit freezes work, what they cost10 warning signs of ID theft

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Updated: 07-22-2017

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