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4 red flags that may trigger your credit card to suspect identity theft

Charlene Oldham
by Charlene Oldham, Dimespring Contributor

Credit card companies are constantly refining their techniques to detect fraud and, for obvious reasons, are reluctant to share specific details of how it’s done.

But there are a few red flags that clue card companies in to fishy activity.

Knowing them can sometimes help consumers eliminate unnecessary questions about legitimate transactions or even prevent fraud in the first place.

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Here are some of the most common triggers that might prompt card companies to issue a fraud alert from Steven Weisman, author of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age, who maintains the blog

  • Making purchases at stores you don’t usually patronize. “The credit card companies establish individual customer profiles such that when a purchase occurs outside of that profile, suspicion is raised,” Weisman explains.
  • Making purchases away from home. “If a person living in Boston is suddenly making purchases in Singapore, this would arouse suspicion,” says Weisman, a professor at Bentley University. “It also is a good reason for someone who is taking a vacation to notify his or her credit card company of that fact.”
  • Taking out cash advances when you’ve never used the card to get cash before. “And if that cash advance occurred in a neighborhood with a high crime rate, the scrutiny is raised,” says Weisman.
  • Making a flurry of large purchases. Given this, it may be worth calling your card company in advance of a shopping spree driven by a remodeling project or other out-of-the-norm event.


Charlene Oldham is a St. Louis-based freelancer and teacher who has worked as a staff writer for newspapers including The Dallas Morning News. She now teaches college-level communications courses and writes about everything from finance to food for publications including SUCCESS and Eating Well.