Credit card fraud is a common issue—most of us know someone who has had their credit card number stolen, or we’ve gotten a call from the bank ourselves. But luckily, more than half of credit card fraud alerts may be false alarms, according to a recent survey.footnote* And while it’s good to know you’re well-protected, understanding what sets off a typical fraud alert may help you avoid tripping the system accidentally.
Trying out a few new stores
One of the easiest ways to trigger a fraud alert is using your card on vacation or when you’re traveling for work. But an alert can also happen closer to home if you’re spending money in a ZIP code you don’t usually visit. Most people generally shop in the same areas, and it can set off red flags if you suddenly change your pattern.
Last-minute shopping sprees
When thieves get ahold of a new credit card, they usually test it out with small items that could go unnoticed, like a pack of gum or even some gas. Once they know it works, they’ll often try to make as many purchases as they can before someone realizes what’s going on. If you’re hitting several stores within a short period of time, it could trigger the same alert.
Using your card to get cash
Another thing to be aware of is buying gift cards or prepaid credit cards. While these seem like harmless purchases, they can set off alarm bells for your bank because thieves tend to go for cash-based items that will continue working even if your credit card gets frozen. The same goes for things that can easily be resold, such as electronics and jewelry.
Switching up your spending
Most people are pretty consistent with their spending, so if you suddenly make a big change in your habits—like buying a new fridge—it could trigger a credit card fraud alert. And while these alerts are usually caused by big-ticket items, smaller purchases can do the same thing if it’s something you don’t usually buy, like supplies for a home improvement project.
Now that you know how you might accidentally trigger a fraud alert, you can rest easier if you happen to get one after making a purchase. For added security, there’s more you can do to help identify and prevent credit card fraud. Mobile wallets like the Capital One WalletSM app can also help by sending purchase notifications to your phone when your card is used.
And remember, if you’re ever concerned about a fraud alert, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your bank. It’s also a good idea to make sure your contact info is updated just in case your bank needs to confirm a transaction or send you an alert.