Lost or Stolen Credit Card?
When it comes to finances, few things are as unnerving as losing a credit card or having it stolen. By the time you realize it’s gone, someone could be living the good life and charging it to you. But by taking action quickly, you can avoid most, if not all, liability for unauthorized charges.
When their cards go missing, cardholders are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). This law mandates that as long as you report your card missing or stolen in a timely manner, you can be held liable for no more than $50 in unauthorized charges. And if you report it before the card is used, you can’t be held responsible for any charges made.
If you find that one or more of your cards are missing, here’s what you need to do:
1. Report the missing card to the issuer immediately. If you don’t know the phone number to call, it should be printed on your credit card statements. Reporting the theft or loss as quickly as possible is crucial, so it’s best to keep a list of your card numbers and the fraud reporting phone numbers in a safe place for easy access.
2. Write a letter to each credit card issuer summarizing the details of your phone conversation. Include your name, card number, when you noticed your card missing and when you reported it. Also include the name of the representative you spoke to. Make a copy for your records, and send the letter via certified mail or with a return receipt request.
3. Keep a close eye on your credit card statements for several months. If you notice any charges you didn’t make, contact the issuer immediately. You should not have to pay any charges made if you have already reported your card lost or stolen.
Minimizing Your Risk
Anyone can have his credit card stolen. But there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. These include:
* Leave your credit cards at home when you don’t plan to use them. You’re much more likely to have them stolen from your wallet or purse than from your home, especially if you keep them locked up.
* Do not carry your PIN number with you. If you do, a thief can easily use your card to obtain cash advances.
* Carefully check your credit card statements as soon as you receive them. Thieves do not have to have the actual card to make charges to your account. They can often make purchases online, by phone or by mail with only your name, card number and expiration date. These can be obtained by stealing records from stores you’ve done business with in the past.
* Be careful when using your credit card. Only buy online from websites you trust, and be aware of suspicious activity when using your card in person. Thieves have been known to snap pictures of credit cards with cell phone cameras and use devices to read cards as they are swiped.
No matter how careful we are, having our credit card or card number stolen is a possibility. By keeping an eye on account activity and taking action quickly if a card is lost or stolen, you can prevent a thief from benefiting from his crime and avoid having to foot the bill.