With credit card fraud being an epidemic, most people know they should watch their account statements for large items being charged to their cards without their approval. But those committing this type of fraud are getting smarter. They often know the financial institutions’ policies about handling credit and debit card fraud better than the average consumer does.


Criminals committing credit and debit card fraud often get the card information of their victim and make a duplicate card. Then they test it by making a small purchase, often for a dollar or less. If it works, they then make larger purchases to get items they can sell or keep for themselves.

Some of these criminals have learned that banks and other card issuers don’t investigate unreported charges if they are under $50 so they make a lot of smaller charges on items they can sell quickly.

According to officials with the Federal Trade Commission, a group of people were able to get away with making fraudulent credit card charges using over a million debit and credit cards to the tune of almost 10 million dollars. Most of the victims didn’t notice what was happening because the criminals limited the charges to $10 dollars or less.

Another method used by criminals is to obtain a person’s savings and/or checking account information and establish a link to that account that will enable them to withdraw some or all the money from the victim’s account. To establish the link, the institution being used by the criminal often makes a small deposit to the victim’s account. People who have set up a PayPal account, for example, and linked it to their primary bank account are familiar with this practice.

It might seem nearly impossible to stop this type of fraud and avoid losing large amounts of money to it but it can be caught early and stopped if you know what to look for and are diligent.

The first thing you can do to help protect yourself is to have access to all accounts for which you have credit or debit cards.

Then check your accounts carefully for any problems on a monthly or even weekly basis. Look for any charges you don’t remember making regardless of size and look into them. Where were the charges made and when. If you feel sure it is a fraudulent charge, report it to the card issuing company right away and ask that it be reversed. Many companies require that reports on unauthorized debit card purchases be reported within two days from the time they are discovered or you may be responsible for any amount up to $500.

Should you notice any deposits, especially very small ones that you aren’t expecting, call the bank to find out where it came from and report it as possible fraud. Failing to do so could result in your account being emptied out. Some people see these small deposits and ignore them as a small windfall and soon wonder how their account was emptied without their knowing.

You can protect yourself from credit and debit card fraud but you do need to be diligent in checking your account for charges you didn’t make. Part of this may be keeping receipts for every purchase when you use a card and check them against your account records regularly.

If you are experiencing any Identity Theft activity, call your local branch of Somerville bank for assistance right away.