Why Your Bank Thinks Someone Stole Your Credit Card

outside a Citigroup Inc. Citibank branch in New York, U.S.,  Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Erin Marquis of AOL Autos is a resident of Detroit, and she regularly fills up her car's tank at gas stations in the Motor City. On multiple occasions, the simple act of getting gas in her hometown has led to her debit card being frozen by her credit union, which suspected that someone had stolen her card.

After the third time this happened, she called up the credit union and asked them to knock it off.

"I finally told them if my card is stolen in Detroit, I'd call them, but they should stop blocking my card every time I paid for something in a new part of the city," she says.

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Credit card issuers regularly issue fraud alerts and freeze accounts when they suspect that someone has stolen your credit card or card number. And while those systems regularly catch fraudsters before they can do too much damage, they also occasionally trip up law-abiding cardholders, who are left to wonder why their attempt to buy a TV, or just 10 gallons of regular, has sent their bank into panic mode.

Credit card banks are understandably reluctant to disclose the precise criteria they use to detect fraud, but we were able to find out what sorts of purchases tend to set off your bank's alarm bells. Here are a few of the warning signs they look for.

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Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.