What do you do if your credit card is lost or stolen? Discovering and reporting the theft immediately lets you off the hook!
Credit card fraud is one our worst fears. It can happen anytime. It can occur when you are out shopping right under your nose. It could happen in your sleep while a database is compromised. It could also strike when you are making an online purchase.
You might not know exactly when and where the theft of your credit card number occurred, but when you see your bill there will be no doubt that your credit card number has been used by criminals. This has happened to several people I know but luckily (knock on wood!) I haven’t had to deal with credit card theft yet.
The good news is that consumers don’t have to pay for purchases made with their stolen credit card when it’s reported quickly. This is an important point to remember. But you must report any unusual activity as soon as you notice it. It’s going to be a lot easier to clear things up with your bank if you report credit card within 30 days than if you wait 90 days.
You don’t want to pay for that big screen TV you never got to use do you? Report that your card was stolen immediately and you are off the hook.
Don’t forget about automatic billing
If your credit card is stolen and you have automatic billing from your credit card you have some work in front of you. Not only do you have to cancel your old number but now you’re going to have to change your billing method on your accounts. This is all going to ruin your weekend but don’t forget any steps like this in the process of replacing your credit card. With any luck you have a list of accounts that will need updating so you can be done with it as quickly as possible. If you are reading this and haven’t lost a credit card it would be a fabulous time for you to make a list of anything that’s automatically billed. Even if you don’t lose a credit card a list of your automatically billed accounts will come in handy when your credit card expires and you have to update the expiration date.
Keep a list of your credit cards
One more tip: Now that you’ve made a list of all your automatic payments, you should have a list of all your credit cards, the account number and contact information. Keep this list in a secure place; not in your computer where a hacker could get to it. That way, if you lose your wallet and lose a lot of cards, you’ll know where to call right away.
Some people think the smart thing to do is write “CHECK PICTURE ID” on the back of their card, rather than signing it. That’s not a good idea. Your card is not valid if it is not signed; it says so right there on the back of your card.
Also, some places, such as the post office, will refuse your card if it’s not signed. So, sign the card. By the way, retailers in Washington State are allowed to ask to see picture ID (the last legislature passed a law allowing that), but they’re not required to ask for it.
It’s OK to use your credit card for Internet purchases as long as you begin the transaction (don’t get there by clicking on a link) and it is a secure transaction. You want a site that begins with the address “https” rather than just “http” or you see that little padlock in the lower part of your screen. I would never use a debit card for an online or mail order transaction with an unknown company. That’s because a credit card gives you better fraud protection.
Tips to help you avoid credit card fraud
- Don’t carry credit cards you don’t use and never leave them unattended in a purse, briefcase or wallet.
- Always make sure you get your credit card receipt because it just may include your credit card number. Never toss it in a public trash bin. You’ll need that receipt later anyway to tally things up when your statement arrives.
- Shred all documents that might include your credit card number before disposing of them – old slips, credit card statements, bills, anything.
- Never give your number over the phone to someone that you do not know. It’s OK if you initiate the call but if you get a call at home from anyone that you do not know by name do not give them your credit card number.
- Never respond to an e-mail asking for your number, no matter how official or legitimate it looks. These bogus e-mails are the #1 fraud right now on the Internet.
- Review your monthly statement as soon as it comes and report any problems right away. To insure your rights, follow-up by filing a written complaint form.
- Request a copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting companies. Look them over for unauthorized credit applications.
Watch your mailbox for credit card theft
Those credit card offers that flood your mailbox are each a potential problem for you. All a crook needs to do is intercept your mail, fill out the form and mail it then wait for the card to be sent to you. Then one day, surprise, you get a huge bill for a credit card that you didn’t even know you had.
Consider using Optoutprescreen.com
There is a way to stop these credit card offers from being sent to you. US credit reporting agencies have set up a method to get you off the list of their marketing campaigns. Call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT and you will stop getting credit card applications in the mail. You will be asked for your name, address, phone number and social security number so that you can prove that you are who you say you are. Don’t worry about giving them this information. Remember that you initiated the call so you are talking to someone that actually is who they say they are. You can also opt-out online at https://www.optoutprescreen.com. Type it into your browser yourself. As you know, because of phishing scams, this is the best way to get to a web page that is what it’s supposed to be. For more information on Optoutprescreen you can read our article about it here.
How to Handle Potential Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is scary business. Not only can credit card fraud affect you financially, it’s also a breach in personal security that doesn’t exactly make you feel safe. Fortunately, there are a lot of preventative measures that have been put into place in order to protect you from potential credit card fraud.
If you find that you are missing a credit card, then the first thing you should do is call your credit card provider and report the loss. They will cancel the card and issue you a new one in order to prevent the lost card from being used in case it was stolen. Once you have reported the loss of your credit card, your credit card’s purchase history should be carefully checked in order to make sure that there were no purchases made that you weren’t responsible for. You should always check your statement for suspicious transactions even if you aren’t missing a credit card since your information can be obtained without your card. Many credit card companies have become quite adept at spotting unusual transactions as well, and will often give you a call if they notice something out of the ordinary.
If there are signs of credit card fraud, then you are going to need to report it. The act of reporting potential credit card fraud is as easy as going over the last few transactions that you made using your credit card with your lender. The lender will then either shut down your old account and card and provide you with a new account and card, or they will keep your old account open and simply replace your credit card (with a new number, of course).
In addition to letting your lender know about the credit card fraud, you’ll also want to inform the credit bureaus. The three major bureaus will then place a fraud alert onto your credit file in order to let lenders know that you were a victim of credit card fraud. Your lenders will take extra precautions in order to verify any new requests. You will have the option of placing a free fraud alert onto your credit report for a duration of 90 days or 7 years. If you are afraid of the potential of identity theft, then you have the option of placing a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze restricts who will be able to access your credit report to only the lenders that you currently have a relationship with. If you were the victim of identity theft, then a credit freeze will be free – otherwise, you’ll have to pay a fee that varies from state to state.
One of the perks of placing a fraud alert onto your credit report is that you can take a look at your score without counting it towards one of the free annual credit reports that you are entitled to under the law. Check your report for inaccuracies and double check all information listed in it.
Being the victim of credit card fraud is more of a pain in the butt than anything else. Credit lenders tend to be very sympathetic and helpful when it comes to dealing with potential credit card fraud, and you won’t be held responsible for any of the fraudulent charges that were made using your credit. The one major thing you will want to look out for if you are a victim of credit card fraud is potential identity theft.
More Information on Credit Card Fraud
- Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud
- Optoutprescreen.com: Is Optoutprescreen legit?
- FTC: Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to do if They’re Lost or Stolen