Remaining vigilant about potential fraudulent activity can save your business from a big financial loss. Learn more about the steps you can take if you suspect that your business has fallen victim to fraud.
By taking a few precautions and being proactive, you can safeguard your financial information from fraudsters and ID thieves. But, if you do suspect something isn’t right with one of your accounts, act swiftly to stamp it out. Taking the right steps will protect your finances, your credit, and your identity.
Here’s what you need to do if you suspect fraudulent activity.
If There’s a Charge You Don’t Recognize
What this means: You notice a charge on your business credit card that originated in Texas, but you haven’t left Philly. This could be a sign that someone has accessed your account, or it could be a mistake. There’s only one way to know for sure.
- Call the bank or creditor ASAP. “The longer you wait to react to something that seems suspicious, the longer time you’re giving someone who has access to your account to do even more damage,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). In other words, you want to move quickly, even if you’re not entirely sure that what you notice is fraudulent.
- Check your other accounts and your credit reports. You want to make sure that this breach hasn’t gone beyond just one account. “If you have reason to believe your identification or financial information has been compromised, contact one of the credit bureaus to request an initial security alert be added to your report,” says Rod Griffin, director of consumer education for Experian. Experian is one of the three U.S. credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion are the other two.
Whichever bureau you contact will notify the other two on your behalf. Once your alert is added, you’ll want to review all three of your credit reports carefully for additional signs of fraud (more on that below).
- Take additional precautions. While the bank or creditor investigates, you can do some due diligence of your own. Change your user names and passwords and your PIN. “Begin pulling up the drawbridge and making sure that whoever may have gotten access to your account won’t be able to get back in,” says McClary.
- Follow up on the investigation. If your bank or creditor says that it will remove the fraudulent charge, ask for an expected timeline. “Then, make sure to double-check that they have followed through,” says an FTC spokesperson. Also, if a new card is issued to you, don’t forget to update any automated payments that you were making with the old card, says McClary.
- Consider filing a police report. Especially in the case of someone withdrawing significant money from your account, it’s always good to involve local law enforcement. “You can ask to file a police report or identity theft report,” says Griffin.
If You Discover Fraudulent Accounts In Your Name
What this means: You might start getting collection calls for an account in your name that you never opened, or notice on your credit report that you have a credit card with a bank you never heard of. These are signs of identity theft, which is more serious than fraudulent charges. Below are the actions you should take right away.
- Call the bank or creditor so they can investigate. “If you suspect fraudulent accounts are being opened in your name, you should contact the company where the account was opened immediately so that they can begin a fraud investigation,” says Griffin.
- Contact the credit bureaus to dispute the account and add a fraud alert. Any accounts that you don’t recognize as having opened yourself warrants immediate action. “You can file a dispute with the corresponding credit bureau by phone or online, and they have 30 days to investigate,” says McClary.
- File a police report. Taking this step demonstrates that you suspect a crime has been committed, and you’ve taken appropriate steps with law enforcement, says McClary. Furthermore, the creditor or bank might require that you file a police report and send them a copy. The report can also help the credit bureaus determine if you need an extended security alert added to your credit report, adds Griffin.
- Submit a complaint with the FTC. If you suspect identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to get a personal recovery plan that walks you through the steps to take, says an FTC spokesperson.
How to Beat Fraudsters at Their Game
While no one can prevent 100% of the above scenarios from happening, you can protect your finances and your identity with some smart habits.
- Monitor bank and credit accounts regularly and set notifications and alerts. Banking apps make keeping tabs on your account activity simple.
- Keep tabs on your credit score and pull your credit reports once per year. “It’s easier than ever to monitor your credit accounts by checking your credit reports frequently,” says Griffin. Not only can you access all three of your credit reports for free once every twelve months by going to annualcreditreport.com, but many financial institutions offer access to credit monitoring tools and free credit scores so you can spot any changes quickly.
- Learn about new scams as they arise. The FTC website lets you sign up for scam alerts, which is a good way to stay ahead of the fraudsters.
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