What to Do If You’re a Victim of Credit Card Fraud

Learn how to spot credit card fraud and when to take action


Credit card fraud was the No. 1 type of identity fraud in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And the coronavirus is making matters worse. With many people stuck at home, the increase in online activity—including shopping—has given scammers even more chances to commit identity fraud.

The good news is that if this happens to you, there’s a clear set of next steps for you to follow. And, if you report credit card fraud, you can usually reduce its financial and emotional impact.

What Is Credit Card Fraud?

Credit card fraud happens when someone uses your credit card or your credit card information to buy something or access your account without permission. The scammer doesn’t need to actually have your card to commit this type of fraud.

Credit card fraud sometimes gets confused with credit card disputes. If you don’t agree with how a company has used your card, but you did give them permission to use it, that could be a dispute. But it's generally not credit card fraud. This applies even if a scammer persuaded you to purchase something with your credit card. In other words, if you authorized the purchase, it may not be credit card fraud. 

Make sure you’re clear about whether you’re dealing with fraud or a dispute, because the process for disputing a charge is different than it is for reporting fraud.

Types of Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud can take many different forms, and it’s getting more sophisticated all the time. Here are some common types: 

  • Card-not-present fraud: This refers to fraud committed over the phone or online when a scammer has your card details, but not your physical card. Your information could have been bought on the dark web—or you could have been a victim of a phishing scam or a data breach.
  • Counterfeit card fraud: This occurs when someone creates a fake card with your information. Thieves often steal card information by “skimming.” They place a device called a “skimmer” over the card slot on an ATM or other card reader, like a gas pump. When you slide in your card, the skimmer reads and stores all of your data. 
  • Account or application fraud: Fraudsters often get hold of personal information by dumpster diving, skimming or stealing mail. With details like your home address, Social Security number and birth date, they might be able to access your credit card account or apply for a new card in your name.
  • Lost or stolen card fraud: This “old-school” credit card fraud can happen when a fraudster uses a card you’ve lost, whether you dropped it in the street, it was stolen in the mail or you were pickpocketed. 

How to Spot Signs of Credit Card Fraud

Whether you suspect you’re a victim of credit card fraud or you’d like to prevent it, here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Transactions on your monthly account statements that you don’t recognize.
  • Blocked access to your account. 
  • Changes to your credit report you didn’t authorize, like new accounts or addresses that aren’t yours.
  • Unexpected calls from creditors or collection agencies.

A monitoring tool can help you stay on top of your personal information. CreditWise® from Capital One® is a free service that gives you the ability to detect suspicious activity.

How to Report Credit Card Fraud

The sooner you notice and report credit card fraud, the quicker you can stop any unauthorized spending in your name. That can protect your credit score and limit your liability for any fraudulent charges. 

If you think you may be the victim of credit card fraud, here’s how to report it: 

  • Contact your card issuer. If you still have the card, look on the back for a toll-free number. If you don’t have it, check the company’s website. Or you can contact your credit card issuer by letter or email.
  • Contact a credit bureau. You can also set up a fraud alert and a credit freeze, which make it harder for anyone to change the details of your accounts or to open new accounts. With a fraud alert, you have to alert only one of the three major national credit reporting agencies—Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®—and it will alert the other two. With a freeze, you have to contact each one of the three yourself.
  • File an FTC complaint. The FTC will refer your complaint to the relevant authorities and offer resources to get you back on track. In most cases, taking this step means you don’t have to file a police report.

Thankfully, if you report credit card fraud and it’s investigated and verified, the Fair Credit Billing Act says you’ll be liable for no more than $50, no matter how many charges are made on your card.

What to Do If You Suspect a Fraudulent Charge on Your Capital One Credit Card

If you can’t find your card or think someone stole your card information, you should report fraud. Capital One will immediately lock the card so no one else can use it and issue you a replacement card with a new card number.

If you’ve noticed one or more charges on your account that you don’t recognize, you can follow these steps before reporting fraud:

  • Go back through your receipts to remind yourself where you’ve been, what you’ve bought and how much you’ve spent.
  • Look up the merchant online to see whether it has a parent company or a business name that’s different from the one you know. That might be the one that’s on your bill.
  • Check with any family members or friends authorized to use the account to make sure they didn’t make the transactions in question.

How to Help Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

Taking the steps above could help you move on more quickly if you’ve already been a victim of credit card fraud. 

And if you’re a Capital One customer, your credit card has a number of security features that can help you detect fraud in the first place. From fraud alerts to instant purchase notifications and more, you can access and enable security features by adding the Capital One Mobile app to your phone or by signing in to your account online. 

The FTC also suggests following these best practices:

  • Don’t give your account information over the phone unless you’re sure the caller is who they say they are. If you’re not sure, ask to call them back to give yourself time to check.
  • Don’t lend your card to anyone, and shred old cards, statements and receipts.
  • Watch for suspicious behavior during any transaction that requires you to hand over your card.
  • Save your receipts to compare them with your monthly statement
  • Be on the lookout for phishing scams that ask you to click links, open attachments, or ask for money or for you to share personal information. 

It’s also a good idea to check your credit report as often as you can and question anything you don’t recognize. You can get one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. And under the current provisions for COVID-19, those same agencies say you can check it for free once a week until the end of April 2021.

And with CreditWise from Capital One, you can access your free TransUnion credit report and weekly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score anytime without negatively impacting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—not just Capital One customers.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many scoring models used by lenders. It likely won’t be the same model your lender uses, but it is an accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Alerts are based on changes to your TransUnion and Experian® credit reports and information we find on the dark web. The tool is not guaranteed to detect all identity theft.

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