If you’ve ever had your credit card number stolen, you may have noticed the first transaction the thief made was a small one. It’s a common tactic for testing the validity of the card, because if a little transaction gets through, the thief can probably make several bigger ones before someone notices and shuts down the account.
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Apparently, thieves have made political campaigns their new testing grounds. It’s the latest trend in credit card fraud, according to fraud-detection company Kount. In a news release about the trend, Kount noted how the influx of political donations this time of year can make it trickier for organizations to detect fraud problems, which can cause problems for the campaigns once a bank or consumer flags the unauthorized transactions.
For consumers, it’s a reminder of how important it is to regularly review credit card statements so small transactions, like fraudsters’ tests, don’t go unnoticed. Not only is it a pain to have to get charges reversed and the credit card replaced, the damage can go so far as to hurt your credit score. Say a thief runs up a high credit card balance before you or your bank catches the problem, and that balance gets reported to the major credit bureaus. The closer your credit card balances get to your credit card limits, the more your scores can drop. That’s why a sudden drop in credit score, too, can be a sign of unauthorized activity on your credit accounts. (You can see two of your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.)
You should also be careful about where you enter your credit card information to minimize the odds of it getting compromised. Check to see if the site is secure (for example, look for a URL with https or a little lock sign next to it in your browser), and closely follow your transactions by checking your account information. As soon as you see something suspicious, contact your credit card issuer to minimize the hassle of reversing the effects of credit card fraud.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
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Christine DiGangi is a reporter and editor for Credit.com, covering a variety of personal finance topics. Her writing has been featured on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo! Finance and The New York Times International Weekly, among other outlets. More by Christine DiGangi