Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? If so, you know just how traumatic it can be. What’s more, if you don’t detect it early enough, it could leave bad marks on your credit report that could haunt you for many years. The most commonly thought of credit card fraud is when your wallet or purse is stolen, and the thief uses your credit cards to make unauthorized purchases.

But, with the increasing rate of online buying, another form of credit card fraud, known as misappropriation, is spreading like wildfire. These days the only thing a thief needs to create havoc on your credit life is your credit card number, not your actual card.

Here are just a few ways that this type of fraud can happen to you:

* One day your telephone rings, you answer and the person on the other end of the line tells you that they have a one-time special offer, good for today only and that you simply need to provide them with your credit card number to make a purchase. STOP! Don’t ever give out your credit card number to anyone who calls you. Only provide this kind of information if you have called the company to place an order, and you are positive that it is a well-established reputable business.

* You find that someone has gone through your trash. Then when you receive your credit card statement, you find that there are dozens of unauthorized charges. STOP! Always tear up your credit card receipts and bank statements before putting them in the trash. Better yet, buy a paper shredder from a local office supply. Many thieves go through unguarded trash bags specifically looking for your credit card statements.

* You go out to eat in a restaurant and pay the bill with your credit card. On your next credit card statement, you notice that there are unauthorized charges that started the same day as your restaurant meal. It turns out that the waiter made an extra imprint of your card when he rang up your bill, and then used the number to go shopping. The solution? Many restaurants have placed their credit card processing centers in plain view of the customer’s sight to combat this problem. If not, you could follow the waiter to the charge station, and watch him throughout the process. It’s also important to make sure that they know that they are being watched.

You may be wondering if there are other measures that you can take to make sure you aren’t a victim of credit card fraud? Yes, there is, and here are a few suggestions.

* If possible, carry your credit cards and other bank information somewhere other than your wallet or purse. This way, if a thief nabs it, you will be out only your cash, not your credit cards.

* Another way is to only take the credit card that you intend to use that day, leave the others at home.

* Make a list of all your credit cards and keep them in a safe place, make sure to list the numbers and contact information of the issuing company. That way, if you do lose them, you’ll have the information necessary to contact the credit card company as soon as you notice the theft.

* Never sign a blank receipt, and always be sure to cross out blank lines. For example, if you bought something that didn’t require a tip, cross out the tip line, so nobody can add to it later.

* If you’re making a purchase online, be sure that you do so via a secure site.

* If you move, report your new address to your credit card issuer immediately. Also, fill out a change of address form at the post office. Sneaky thieves are on the lookout for people moving, and then watch the mailbox of the old house, hoping that they can intercept a credit card statement.

Following the above suggestions doesn’t guarantee you’ll never be a victim of credit card fraud, but it will greatly reduce your chances.