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If you are unfortunate enough to have your credit card stolen in the U.S., how do I break it?

Activate a fraud alert: You can contact one of the three major credit scoring agencies and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. This service generally lasts for 180 days and can be renewed after that. It will alert the merchant to use additional steps to confirm your identity and that the transaction was authorized by you if your credit card is swiped.

Set up a security freeze: A security freeze goes a step further than a fraud alert. It makes it impossible for any party to view your credit report, thus preventing fraudsters from opening new credit accounts in your name, etc. The freeze can be lifted when you need to apply for credit, or you can give your PIN or password to the credit company and authorize them to check your file.

Fill out an identity theft affidavit: Download several blank affidavits from the Federal Trade Commission at Your credit card company, merchant, or service provider may require you to fill out this affidavit to swear that you are a victim and not liable for any debt incurred as a result of someone else’s theft of your identity. Your credit card company, merchant, or service provider may require you to fill out this affidavit to swear that you are a victim and not liable for any debt incurred by someone else who stole your identity.

Report to law enforcement agencies: If you become aware of suspected fraudulent activity, report it to the police department where you live, the state attorney, and the Federal Trade Commission. If in the future your bank or card company wants you to pay back any money incurred as a result of identity theft, show them proof of the report.

Contact your bank or card company: If you suddenly lose access to online banking and a suspicious account appears on your credit card, contact the bank or card company concerned. Close the affected account if possible. If a check is stolen, stop payment on the uncashed check. You should also contact the merchant or utility company to indicate that someone has purchased something or ordered a service under an assumed name and offer to provide an affidavit of identity theft.

Keep a file: Because some financial institutions are afraid of incurring unclaimed debts, they may try to excuse this as not credit fraud so they can ask you to pay the debt in the future, so be sure to keep a record of any suspicious signs. For example, the day you can’t log into your account, the day you generate unauthorized charges, etc. Also, keep a record of communications with banks, card companies, and merchants.

Contact the Postal Service: If mail is stolen or if someone uses your postal address to commit fraud, report it immediately to your local postal inspector’s office. You can use the USPS website to find a post office near your address.

Contact the IRS: If you suspect that your Social Security number has been stolen and used to file a fraudulent tax return or to receive a fraudulent tax refund, you should report it to the IRS; contact information can be found on the IRS website at

After doing the above 8 urgent steps, you also need to keep an eye on your credit status.
Check your free credit report: Every year you can get a free credit report from one of the three credit scoring agencies, which means you can get one free report every four months when you ask for them in rotation. You can go to or 877-322-8228. If you find anything suspicious on your credit report, report it to the credit scoring agency right away.
Purchase a credit report: If you run out of free report opportunities this year, you can purchase a report from Equifax for $11 or from for $15 for all three agencies. You can also get a free report by trying out the credit monitoring service, but don’t forget to stop the service before the trial period ends to avoid being charged.

Order a credit monitoring service: Comparing the fees of credit monitoring services, it is cheaper to order a few credit reports per year, but credit monitoring services may be more likely to detect identity theft. Be careful to shop around to find a good deal.

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