Going out of town for the Fourth of July holiday weekend? Be sure to tell your credit card companies. They'll want to know that it's you—and not identity thieves—using your debit and credit cards in new places.
Credit and debit card fraud is a growing concern in the United States, and is, in fact, the number one financial fear American consumers have, Forbes reported. Luckily, credit card companies are becoming better at identifying when an account has been compromised. These companies flag suspicious activity on your account and may be able to stop any damage to your finances before they start.
What counts as suspicious activity?
Change of Location
If you live in New York City but one day your card is being used in Washington, D.C., that may seem suspicious to a credit card company. But if you live in NYC and your credit card is being used in Europe - that will definitely come across as suspicious, Forbes reported.
Change in Purchasing Habits
Because banks and credit card companies have your account records, they can see what you have historically spent your money on, how much you spend and how often. If a large purchase is made, that may raise a red flag, so might constant spending activity in a short amount of time, according to Forbes. Large cash withdrawals from an ATM could also look suspicious.
Change in Shopping Areas
Credit card companies and banks know what areas or neighborhoods are more prone to identity theft and fraudulent purchases. If shopping with a credit or debit card occurs in such an area, banks and credit card companies see this as suspicious as well and flag it, Forbes reported. Especially if large purchases are made in these areas, card companies will likely take action on the account.
Any of these suspicious activities could not only raise the red flag for the credit card company, but could also result in an account being frozen. When you're on the road this holiday weekend, the last thing you want is someone stealing your identity. Having your credit or debit card placed on hold could also put a damper on your vacation and limit your spending options. Notifying your credit card company of travel plans may be a smart idea. Keeping close watch on your personal accounts is also a wise choice to protect against identity theft.
Identity theft can cause substantial damage to consumers. However, taking action quickly after noticing suspicious activity could lessen the blow.
Raul Vargas is a fraud operations team leader at IDentity Theft 911.