In 2017, according to Javelin Strategy & Research data, 16.7 million American consumers fell victim to identity theft or fraud, with the cost of the fraud reaching $16.8 billion. Since this can happen to just about anyone, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to report potential credit card fraud if you catch it.

Types of Credit Card Fraud

Even the most careful people fall victim. Why? Credit card fraud can occur in various ways. Credit cards can be lost or stolen, or someone could steal your mail and gain your personally identifying information. Additionally, systems with credit card information could be hacked or broken into. Thieves also may use spyware, or software that is used to scrape important information from your computer or from the systems of online retailers where you shop.

Credit and Debit Card Skimming: Skimming refers to stealing debit or credit card information via a special device — a skimmer — attached to an ATM, gas station pump, restaurant or store checkout terminal, or even a handheld credit card reader.

Even though some experts recommend to try and spot a skimming device visually, the truth is, it’s not easy to do. Skimmers can be difficult, if not impossible, to detect. It’s important to protect yourself against skimming by paying special attention to ATMs. To help protect yourself from this kind of credit card fraud, use your own bank ATM.

Email and Phone Phishing: Phishing refers to a fraud where the perpetrators are trying to trick you into giving them your personal information, which they can then use to steal your money or even identity. In the case of a credit card fraud, it’s an attempt to gain access to your credit card information.

Sometimes, those attempting fraudulent activity will send you a link that, when clicked, will install malicious key logging software on your computer. Upon execution, the software will record all the login names and passwords you type and gain access to your personal financial information.

To avoid or greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of phishing:

  • Don’t click on any links you’re not sure about and don’t email unencrypted personal financial information, even if you trust the recipient.
  • If you’re contacted by phone, rather than email, don’t divulge any sensitive information to anyone unless you have initiated the contact.
  • Never call the number or click on a link that suddenly pops up on your computer screen, especially if it claims that your computer has been infected with a virus.
  • Keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs updated.

What to Do If You Suspect Credit Card Fraud

If you detect fraudulent charges, call your card issuer. The phone number can typically be found on the back of your credit card, or you can find it on the issuer’s website, and some may have toll-free numbers and agents available 24 hours a day.

If, in addition to fraudulent charges, you believe your identity has been stolen, you should take a few more steps:

Contact the Credit Bureaus: You’ll want to contact each of the major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, to place a fraud alert on your credit reports, in which lenders must verify your identity when someone attempts to open a new account under your name. There is also a more intense option: to place a credit freeze on your reports. This makes it more difficult for thieves to open an account in your name by not allowing credit report inquiries unless you personally “thaw” your report when applying for a new account.

File a Police Report: It’s important to file an identity theft report with your local police precinct. Make sure you keep a copy of the report, which you may need to submit to creditors and others.

Invest in Identity Protection

As a Discover cardmember, you have yet another option to help you protect your identity and personally identifiable information: Discover® Identity Theft Protectionlets you know if your SSN and other personal info you add is on one of thousands of dark websites monitored,, if accounts are opened or updated in your name at any of the thousands of financial institutions we monitor daily, if someone is using your Social Security number to create new identities at Experian and much more. All with 100 percent U.S.-based fraud resolution experts and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance for covered losses2.

Bottom Line

Be sure to stay vigilant in protecting your personal information whenever possible, which can help mitigate the risks. Check out some ways to help keep your information safe. Your digital DNA is everywhere, so it’s smart to do something to protect it.

Originally published October 3, 2018.

Updated July 17, 2019.

Identity Theft Protection:

  1. This product is only intended for the Primary credit cardmember whose accounts are open, in good standing and have an email address on file. It can only be agreed upon, purchased and delivered online. This product is optional and voluntary.
  2. Key changes include: New accounts, credit inquiries, address changes, potentially negative information such as delinquencies, new public records.
  3. Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. (AIG). 175 Water Street, New York, New York 10038. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.