4 Moves You Need to Make Immediately After Your Credit Card Is Hacked

If your credit card has been hacked, it's important to take four steps immediately to minimize the damage to your credit.
By Maryalene LaPonsie
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No one wants to be the victim of a credit card hack; but if it happens to you, some quick thinking can help minimize the damage.

If you find unusual charges on your credit statement or are notified that your credit card information has been exposed in a security breach, take the following four steps:

1. Report Credit Card Theft

Contact your credit card issuer as soon as you realize you've been the victim of credit card theft.

  • Most companies will automatically issue you a new card; but if they don't, ask for one.
  • You may also need to fill out a form to dispute any charges on your statement you don't recognize.

Maybe you wonder how to catch someone who stole your credit card or how often do credit card frauds get caught. Unfortunately, the answer seems to be very rarely. Many cases involve criminals who live overseas or are difficult to track because of technology.

Still, you should report the credit card theft to your local police department if someone has stolen your physical card and not just hacked into your account online.

If someone has opened a credit card in your name, also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Change Passwords

Next on the to-do list is to change credit card PIN and passwords. It's possible the hacker doesn't have this information, but you don't want to assume anything.

You may be able to change PIN settings using your card's online account, or you may need to call to request a new PIN from the card issuer.

When you update passwords, be sure to use a strong password that includes a combination of letters, numbers and characters.

Also change the password on any other account that has the same password as your hacked credit card.

Security experts recommend having a different strong password for each of your accounts as part of how to prevent hacking. If you're wondering, why does my credit card keep getting hacked, it could be because you're using weak passwords. Use a password manager such as Keeper, LastPass or Dashlane to create and remember strong passwords for you.

3. Request a Credit Freeze and Credit Monitoring

When a credit card is hacked through a security breach, it can open the door for free identity theft protection. Many companies offer monitoring services as part of their response to data breaches. For instance, after a 2017 breach of its data, credit reporting agency Equifax offered all affected people one year of free credit monitoring. This service tracks changes to your credit report and alerts you of suspicious activity.

If you aren't offered a free service, you can search for "credit monitoring" online to find companies that will provide it. You don't necessarily have to pay a fee, either. The Capital One fraud protection program CreditWise is available free for anyone and provides monitoring of both the dark web and TransUnion credit reports.

You can also place a free credit freeze on your report. This prevents creditors from pulling a copy of your credit report.

A credit freeze can be a useful tool if you think a credit card hacker has your personal information and may try to open new accounts in your name.

Does freezing your credit card hurt your credit?

No, although keep in mind that a credit freeze applies to all your credit not just one card. If you want to apply for a new credit card or loan yourself, you'll need to unfreeze your credit first to do so.

4. Review Your Credit Reports

While you may only be aware of one credit card hack, it could be a symptom of a deeper problem. Request a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies using the official Annual Credit Report website.

Once the reports arrive, check them carefully for any accounts you don't recognize. If you find one, contact the credit bureau as well as the account issuer to notify them of the problem.

When it comes to how to prevent credit card fraud, many effective strategies are very simple.

  • Keep your card in a secure location
  • Don't keep your PIN in your wallet or with the card
  • Use strong passwords
  • Use monitoring services after data breaches
  • Make it a habit to check your credit reports at least once a year for unusual accounts
  • Review card statements monthly to monitor for fraudulent charges
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