Q. Do scammers send unsolicited text messages about credit card fraud? How do I know what is real?
A. Scammers will try just about anything to steal your money or your identity, so bogus credit card fraud alerts are certainly possible.
Many credit card companies have a warning system in place to automatically notify you of suspicious activity on your account, and will contact you by the method specified in your account settings — usually by text message, telephone call or email.
If you get a text message or email alert about fraud out of the blue and want to confirm its authenticity, call the customer-service number on the back of your card and ask to speak to a representative. If you prefer an online approach, log into your account on the company’s website (or mobile app) over a secure network connection and check for notifications about suspicious account activity. To be on the safe side, do not call the number or open any links that may have been included with the message, even though some can be legitimate.
Many financial institutions have sophisticated and automated fraud-detection algorithms that can quickly detect signs of unusual activity on your account — often before you are aware of it. Your purchasing history, geographic location of the charge, merchant choice and spending amounts are some factors typically used in fraud-detection systems.
If you want to see what other account protections are available from your bank or credit-card company, browse its website and look for its safety and security section. American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa all offer alerts and other security tools, as do many banks that issue cards, like Chase and HSBC.
Fraud happens year round, but because the Internal Revenue Service is on many people’s minds this month, also be on guard for tax-related scams. The IRS.gov site has information on the latest ruses and how to report them.
Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to email@example.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.
J.D. Biersdorfer has been answering technology questions — in print, on the web, in audio and in video — since 1998. She also writes the Sunday Book Review’s “Applied Reading” column on ebooks and literary apps, among other things. @jdbiersdorfer