What I did after my credit card was stolen

Array of credit cards

It turns out, even if you do all the right things and guard your credit card numbers with your life, you can still be a victim of fraud.

It happened to me, even though I signed the back of my card, carried credit cards separately from my wallet and never loaned out my card or card number.

Even so, one day I went online to look at my account balance and discovered an odd preauthorization that caught my eye. I, too, was a victim of credit card fraud.

I shut down my card and signed paperwork that resulted in a credit for the $109 in fraudulent charges.

Here's what to do to spot or recover from credit card fraud.

Spotting a crime

It sounds like overkill, but a quick daily review of your credit card accounts and any bank account associated with a debit or credit card is the easiest way to spot suspicious transactions.

Had I not done my daily check, we might have not noticed the fraudulent charge for almost a month because we had just balanced the account.

It takes less than 5 minutes a day, but because some banks limit the protection they offer against fraudulent charges after 30 to 90 days, a daily check makes it easy to report fraud sooner rather than later.

Getting your money back

If you spot a suspicious transaction on your statement, notify your bank or card issuer immediately. In most cases, you can report theft 24 hours day via the card issuer’s website or a consumer fraud customer service hotline.

Many banks will issue provisional credit pending an investigation. If the transaction is proven to be fraudulent, the credit will remain in your account.

Credit card issuers will often credit your account pending the results of the investigation. And like banks, if it’s determined that you were a victim of credit card fraud, the credit will not be reversed.

Be prepared to have your card shut down and a new one -- with a new number -- issued.

Here’s where the fun really begins because any automatic electronic fund transfers will need to be updated with the new card’s number. Lesson No. 2 learned the hard way.

Limiting your exposure

Unless you really do have friends or family in Malaysia, Nigeria or Timbuktu, it goes without saying that you should never -- EVER -- click on or reply to emails promising to wire funds or an inheritance after you provide some brief personal information.

And remember, reputable banks, transaction clearinghouses like PayPal, your Internet provider and credit card issuers like Chase or American Express never send emails addressed to “Dear Customer” or asking you to click on a link to verify information.

If you receive an email asking for personal information, or to verify information, pick up the phone and call your card issuer.

If you’re an avid online shopper, only enter your credit card information on secure sites that include "https" in the address bar.

Whether you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud or not, it’s smart to also check your credit report once every four months.

That’s easy to do since you’re eligible for one free credit report from each of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion and Experian). Simply pull one of the free ones once every four months.

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