Ways to Spot Suspicious Activity on Your Credit Card

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spot suspicious credit card activity

When thinking about identity theft protection, always remember that your diligence in monitoring your finances is the most effective weapon in the fight against identity thieves. For most of us, that diligence begins with our credit cards.

Credit cards are incredibly useful money and credit management tools. They allow us to shop online, pay bills, and buy goods and services without having to carry much cash. However, they're also identity thieves' favorite means of ripping you off. Once they have your card or card information, they can begin making purchases and cash withdrawals immediately. Since most of us have several credit cards in our billfolds, thieves rely on their victims receiving several statements every month and simply paying attention to balances rather than individual purchases.

If you want to spot suspicious activity on your credit cards, here are some tips:

• Look at every purchase
When they get their monthly statements, most people look at their balances and ignore individual purchases. Thieves count on this oversight. Get into the habit of looking at every charge on the card; a thief with your credit card information knows that he or she can steal a lot more over time by siphoning off relatively small amounts each month.

• Pay close attention to cash withdrawals
Looking at every purchase includes keeping an eye on cash withdrawals. Most thieves know that a large cash withdrawal against a stolen card will trigger alerts and other identity theft protection measures. The smart ones will therefore make smaller withdrawals over time, hoping that you'll overlook them.

• Keep your receipts
Keep your receipts for every credit card purchase, and use them to reconcile your monthly statement, similar to balancing a checkbook. This is a better identity theft protection method than you might think. It's also a very smart way to track spending and distinguish necessary purchases from impulse spending.

• Open credit card statements immediately
Most of us pay all our monthly bills in one sitting. However, it's a very good idea to open each credit card statement and examine it carefully as soon as it arrives. That way, if you spot something irregular, you can contact the card issuer right away and either resolve the charge or limit your damage by canceling the card.

If these tips seem obvious, simple, and practical, they are. Nevertheless, most of us are guilty of overlooking some or all of them on a regular basis. It's worth repeating: Identity theft protection begins with you, and paying close attention to these and other details could prevent you from becoming a thief's next victim.

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