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Consumer Watch: Why you might need a Fraud Alert on your credit

A simple move that takes seconds can help you in the fight against fraudsters. (KOKH)

If you are the victim of fraud there is a limited amount of time to make things right—usually a window of 60 days, so it is important to act fast.

Fraud isn't always taking huge chunks of money, sometimes it's about taking smaller amounts for a long time, which is why it is important to keep a regular eye on not just the total amount in your account, but individual charges too.

“I have talked to people, who I know are real responsible mature people, who will say someone was taking out hundreds of dollars every month, and ‘I just wasn't checking,’ “says Elaine Dodd, Executive Vice-president with the Fraud Division of the Oklahoma Bankers Association.

The easiest and most straight forward way to protect yourself is to look at your bank account and credit cards accounts at least once a month, though Dodd says she checks her accounts every other day.

If you see something wrong, report it.

“Even if it is a tiny number, because that is a test -- so on a credit card if you see 99 cents and you haven’t just bought a happy hour soft drink, then they are checking to see if the card is good,” says Dodd.

Remember, you do only have 60 days to make things right. If you see a fraudulent charge, call your bank or credit card company right away.

“As long as you are looking at your bank statements and credit card statements, you are probably going to be ok anyway,” says Dodd.

Checking your credit score will help you see if anyone has taken a loan out in your name. If your identity has been stolen, it is a good idea to put a fraud alert on your credit. That's done by contacting each of the big three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. A fraud alert will limit anyone from taking out new credit in your name. These let lenders know they have to take extra steps to prove you are the person asking for new credit.

If you are the victim of identity theft, the fraud alert is free. There is also a credit freeze, but that is more intense and locks down your credit. We've got your back with a step by step guide to placing a fraud alert on your credit, just click here.


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