What To Do If You’re A Victim Of Online Credit Card Fraud

Philip Bates 30-04-2014

People presume that you’ve been visiting “dodgy” websites if you admit that your credit card has been compromised. But that’s not usually the case: for instance, just last year, the massive discount retailer Target was hacked Target Confirms Up To 40 Million US Customers Credit Cards Potentially Hacked Target has just confirmed that a hack could have compromised the credit card information for up to 40 million customers that have shopped in its US stores between November 27th and December 15th of 2013. Read More .


Potentially, 40 million US customers could’ve had their data stolen.

If your credit card has been hacked, you’re probably feeling a bit embarrassed and angry. You’re no doubt panicking too, like you’re racing against the clock to reclaim your account. Yes, there is some degree of urgency, but hackers are at their most dangerous when they’re invisible. Once you know there’s something wrong with your accounts, you can do something about it.


It’s important not to panic. It’s no good for you, and it certainly won’t help.

So, after calming down a bit, what do you do next?

Find Out Who To Contact

… And talk to them!

It could be your credit card company, your bank or building society. This is, of course, if they haven’t contacted you already. It’s more than likely they’re the ones that have found the problem. It’s also possible that you checked through your statements and thought it odd you made $1 payments to a yacht firm or something. Hackers use smaller amounts to test the waters, and whilst you may think such a small fee would be glaringly obvious, it’s become increasingly popular to pay for goods like newspapers using credit or debit cards.


The company will run through your recent outgoings, so you’ll need some your statements and receipts to hand.

Check Your Transactions

We’re not all perfect and few of us (unless you’re a sole trader) pore through their bank statements every month. But you’ll need to look through it all. It may be tedious, but it’s important.

Correlate any purchases with your online accounts. Thanks to 1-Click Ordering, it’s so easy to buy through Amazon, for example, and you’ll need to know exactly which orders were made by you. In most cases, your credit card company will refund you what the scammers have taken.

If your bank hasn’t already arranged for one, request a new credit card and change your PIN.

Scan – BEFORE Recovery!

How did the scammers get in and find your details? This is a good time to cover all bases. It might be that your card was cloned in a shop, but it could equally be a keylogger.


Restart your computer and go into Safe Mode by tapping F8. Check out our guide to Safe Mode How To Start In Windows Safe Mode & Its Uses The Windows operating system is a complex structure that hosts a lot of processes. As you add and remove hardware and software, problems or conflicts can occur, and in some cases it can become very... Read More and its uses. Scan and update your security before recovery; ideally, you’re recovering from an initial recovery from when you installed your computer. A recovery image made later on – but after another virus scan – is just as good.

Once you’ve restored an older image of your system, you might like to do another virus check, which should locate any automated malware. It is, after all, better to be safe than sorry.

If you’re stuck for a good anti-virus, we’ve a list of great free online ones 10 Free Online Malware and Virus Scanners Read More , as well as quality Linux anti-virus programs The 6 Best Free Linux Antivirus Programs Think Linux doesn't need antivirus? Think again. These free antivirus tools can ensure your Linux box remains virus-free. Read More . Or, of course, you could turn to Kaspersky Check Your PC Fast & Free With Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool Sometimes, even when you run professional antivirus software and anti-malware apps, your computer may still start acting a bit screwy - leading you to wonder whether it's possible some new virus somehow made it past... Read More !

To make a scan quicker, a disc clean-up will delete your temporary Internet and Windows files; generally, you can do this through the Start menu:

Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

After it calculates the amount of space it’ll free up, make sure the fields Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files and Temporary Files, are checked, and then carry on with the cleanup.

Tackling Your Passwords


You’ll need to reset your passwords – but only after the problem has been resolved. Changing passwords while keyloggers are still lurking in the background is like handing a stranger a sticky note with your PIN on.

This includes the network key on your router. Scammers can intercept your network traffic by hacking into your WiFi connection. It’s pretty simple to do, yet so many leave their networks open to attack, often by leaving the default key in place: here’s a brief step-by-step guide to securing your wireless network 7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps. Read More .

By now, we all really know what makes a good password, though many still plump for something simple like ‘12345678.’ Don’t do that. We’ve got several tips for creating a secure password 13 Ways to Make Up Passwords That Are Secure and Memorable Want to know how to make up a secure password? These creative password ideas will help you create strong, memorable passwords. Read More , but you probably have your own way of coming up with something memorable. You can even check how strong your password is Put Your Passwords Through The Crack Test With These Five Password Strength Tools All of us have read a fair share of ‘how do I crack a password’ questions. It’s safe to say that most of them are for nefarious purposes rather than an inquisitive one. Breaching passwords... Read More .

Look through your apps as well and revoke those you don’t trust or recognise. Change your Apple and Google passwords after this and if you’re worried about transactions through your iPhone, for example, request a support call. The staff will be more than happy to help and can arrange refunds too.

Check Emails & Settings

Review your personal email settings. Scammers might’ve added forwarding email address so they can read any updated accounts information – delete these immediately. You should also check your sent items folder too or any unusual activity.

Credit card fraud

Next, check the links in your email signature. Malicious links added by hackers may have been sent to every contact in your address book. Obviously, make any necessary changes.

And Finally…

Talk to people. As we say, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and maybe your experiences will educate someone and stop it happening to them.

According to the UK Card Association, £46.5 billion was spent on cards in January 2014 alone, accounting for over 954 million transactions. We use cards for almost everything nowadays and of course, risks exist. But it’s important you don’t panic or get paranoid about it. If the worst happens you can talk to the right people and ensure that the correct steps are taken quickly.

Image Credits: Phone Via FlickrDon’t Panic Button Via ShutterstockPassword Via Shutterstock; Credit Card Fraud Via Flickr.

Explore more about: Anti-Malware, Keylogger, Online Security.

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  1. isse
    May 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

    "odd you made $1 payments to a yacht firm" -- It won't necessarily be to something strange like a yacht firm, but might be to a company you've purchased from before. This happened to me, and Card Services called to ask me about it before I even got the statement. They agreed it was probably fraud and to replace my card.

    But they wanted me to wait a couple of weeks for it to be delivered. This was right at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and I really could not wait that long. I argued, saying that I did nothing wrong here and had responded promptly to their notification, so I should not be punished for this. Only after looking at my record of always paying on time did they agree to overnight the new card to me. Banks!

    • Philip Bates
      May 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      You're right: sorry, I didn't meant o be flippant. They could do something ordinary (like use a company you already go to; perhaps Amazon or somewhere nearly everyone uses) or something left-filed (like a company you've never heard of).

      Sorry to hear you've had that experience, though. It's never a nice feeling.

    • isse
      May 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that I thought you were being flippant. I merely took it as a colorful way to refer to "some unusual business you've never heard of." In response I wanted to point out that it COULD be a business you've purchased from before.

    • Philip Bates
      May 30, 2014 at 10:30 am

      No, don't be sorry - your point was definitely of use and you're 100% right.

  2. James B
    May 2, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Funnily enough, the only time I was a (potential) victim of CC fraud online was when I renewed with an insurer and accidentally put in the wrong expiry date. Somehow, one of their employees got a hold of the list of rejected cards and they were trying them again a month later, I guess they thought the cards would have been under the limit again by that time.

    All of their transactions were blocked (obviously, they had the wrong expiry, but they did know the CVV code on the back!) by my card provider, Tesco, and they phoned me that evening to let me know and arrange a new card. They're actually really good, proactively looking for unusual transactions even if they weren't blocked, so I regularly get calls from them asking to verify recent activity.

    Shopping online is orders of magnitude safer than using a card in a shop/restaurant, or paying by cash.

    • Philip Bates
      May 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      You're right, James: they are very vigilant and have let me know of a potential problem in the past... although it was actually me, so no problems!

      I was also impressed with my bank's service when I thought I'd spotted something fishy. They were on it straight away. I know banks get a lot of hassle but in these matters, they excel.

  3. Dennis
    May 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I buy almost everything from the web and never had my credit card compromised online.
    The only place that's a problem is restaurants. Waiters can take your card and write down the security code. I now memorize the security code and scratch it off the cards. Also, I would never use a debit card tied to my account. Credit card companies let you say "That's not my charge" and they take care of everything.

    • Philip Bates
      May 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      As you say, it's always safer to use a credit card. Sometimes, it's not an option though.

      My family don't buy that much online, but it's a hit-or-miss thing: some people are victim again and again; others aren't at all.

  4. ReadandShare
    May 1, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Very helpful article! One more suggestion - use the internet in your fight against fraud. Most all bank websites let you set up "alerts" -- so your bank will automatically text or email you of transactions (you can set the type and dollar threshold). This way, any odd transaction, you will be alerted right away -- rather than waiting to find out with your monthly bank statement... or whenever you are roused to check the website on your own.

    • Philip Bates
      May 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Excellent advice - thanks. Might set that up myself!