5 Steps to Bounce Back From Fraud

You do everything you can to protect yourself from scammers. You report suspicious emails, avoid clicking on "phishy" links, create strong passwords and shred every piece of mail. But sometimes your financial data is compromised even when you’ve taken precautions.

What should you do if your banking or credit card information is stolen, hacked or breached? Follow these five steps to resolve the problem and make sure you’re protected.

1. Notify your financial institution immediately:

The old adage that “it’s better to be safe than sorry” definitely holds true here. If you spot any suspicious activity on your account, immediately contact your bank or credit union to report the problem. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • Unusual purchases or transactions
  • Inability to login online
  • Withdrawals you didn’t make
  • Declined cards

If the problem is a debit or credit card transaction, your financial institution can put a temporary freeze on your account, issue a new card and change your card number permanently. For electronic transactions, you may want to close the account and open a new one later. You’ll also want to file an official dispute of any fraudulent charges with your creditors and/or financial institution.

2. Change your passwords:

If the compromise involved access to your online accounts, you’ll want to update your password (and username, if possible). Don’t reuse any of your old passwords, even if you used them on another site. Use a unique password for each site, and incorporate unexpected letter/number/symbol combinations.

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Tip: Store passwords in a secure online vault to keep them safe but accessible — this way, the only password you need to remember is the one for your vault.

3. Contact the credit reporting bureaus:

Request a fraud alert or security freeze so you’ll be notified if anyone attempts to get credit in your name. Fraud alerts can be requested online, or you can reach out directly at:

  • Experian (1-888-397-3742)
  • Equifax (1-888-766-0008)
  • TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)
  • Innovis (1-800-540-2505)

4. Seek external help:

Depending on the severity of your situation, you may choose to file a local police report. Before you do, gather every piece of information that might be helpful — including account statements, transaction records and timelines of your responses to the theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov site is a great resource for recovery plans that help you get back on track.

5. Keep a watchful eye:

Sometimes, combating fraud is as easy as changing your passwords and getting new cards issued. Even so, you’ll want to be extra vigilant with your accounts for a while. Look statements over carefully, log into online banking regularly and periodically review your credit report to make sure thieves didn’t get away with more info than you thought.

By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to fixing any damage that was done to your accounts or your credit. And, by keeping these steps in mind, you’ll be better equipped to prevent or handle any future security problems.

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The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.