You bought a lot of stuff over the holidays, but are you sure all of those charges on your credit card or bank statement are legit? The latest Money Matters report looks at ways that consumers can protect themselves against credit card fraud. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
You may have gained a few pounds over the holidays, but chances are your wallet got a workout. Unfortunately, while you were in the giving spirit, you may have inadvertently given thieves lots of opportunities to swipe your information.
"The reality is that whether or not you were part of the Target breach or not, millions and millions of people have their credit card information, their debit card information taken by criminals every year," says Michael Schreiber, editor-in-chief of credit.com.
Which is why it's important to check your accounts regularly, and not just after the holiday.
"Log in to your credit card accounts, to your bank accounts, and check these things every day to make sure that there's nothing on there that you don't recognize," Schreiber says.
Notice something out of place or unfamiliar? Schreiber says speak up. Call your credit card issuer or bank immediately and initiate a dispute.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit card fraud happens every day. That's the bad news. The good news is that if you didn't buy the item, you won't be liable for the charge.
"If you really didn't make the purchase and the charges aren't yours, for a credit card, it's relatively simple. Usually, those get wiped away relatively quickly," Schreiber says. "With a debit card, it can be more complicated because that's actually cash that has disappeared from your bank account that they have to replace. So that can take more time."
They'll also likely want to replace your card, freezing the old one and issuing you a new number.
Before you panic, Schreiber says someone getting hold of your credit card number is not enough to commit identity theft. Still, he advises, you'll want to be extra diligent.
"This stuff happens so frequently now that it's really all part of doing business as a consumer," he says. "It's something that you've got to be aware of and sensitive to. It doesn't necessarily have to unravel your entire life."
In addition to monitoring your accounts online, he suggests that you check your credit report every year to make sure no one has opened a line of credit in your name. For more information, go to