How To Minimize The Damage If Your Credit Card Is Stolen

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The news is rife with reports of stolen credit cards and identity theft rings these days. While that shouldn’t make you panic, it should inspire you to make a plan of attack of what to do should you ever discover that your card is missing.

Pick Up The Phone

The very first thing you need to do upon realizing that your card’s gone missing is contact the credit union or bank that issued your card. You can go online to find the telephone number. Speak to a customer service representative and explain the circumstances – do you know for certain your card was stolen? Is it lost? How long has it been since you last used it? They will ask you a variety of questions to help recognize whether or not any unauthorized purchases have been made to your account. Based upon you answers, they will put a freeze on the missing card and issue you a new one.

While you are on the phone, be sure that you change any passwords or PIN numbers you have attached to the account. Once you have completed your call, go ahead and notify any companies that you have automatic payments set up to be funded with that particular card. It’s important to make a note of all phone call you make to your card issuer regarding your stolen card, as well as hang on to any other correspondence – letters and emails – until the situation is completely resolved. That information will assist you in filing a police report or other claim.

If other items are missing as well such as your Social Security Card, bank card or driver’s license as is likely the case if your wallet or purse was stolen, there are even more precautions you can take against being the victim of fraud.

 Contact All Three Credit Bureaus

Contact credit scoring bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion by phone or online and submit a request to have an Initial Fraud Alert placed upon your credit file if you fear that you are very likely to fall victim to identity thieves. An Initial Fraud Alert will last for 90 days and will prevent someone from being able to use your personal information to open up new credit card accounts or other loans.

Go To The Police

If you have proof that you are indeed a victim of an identity thief and have had your information used to open up any fraudulent accounts or if money has been stolen out of one of your existing accounts, go to your local police precinct and file an Identity Theft Report. The FTC offers guidance online regarding the completion and submission of such a report. It is also possible to file a separate report with the Federal Trade Commission itself.

Know Your Responsibility

Thanks to a federal law, your financial liability for fraudulent charges made to your credit card account is capped at $50. In fact, the charges are made after you report to your issuer that the card has been lost or stolen, you have no financial liability for any portion of unauthorized charges.

In the case of a lost or stolen debit card, the liability for fraudulent charges is different. Any debit card transactions bearing a signature are generally protected by “zero liability” policies like the ones afforded to credit cards. If the loss is reported within two business days, your liability maxes out at $50. That limit soars to $500 if the loss is reported beyond two business days. If for some reason you don’t notify your bank of the loss within 60 days of receiving a statement bearing unauthorized charges you run the risk of being held liable for the whole amount.

Certain types of transactions at the store or an ATM where you enter your PIN number instead of signing a receipt may not be covered under your card issuer’s zero-liability policy depending on the PIN debit network that is utilized in completing the transaction. Contact your bank and ask them to provide more information.

Keep Vigilant

In the future, make sure that you carefully comb over your monthly bank and credit card statements while keeping an eye out for fraudulent charges. It’s good to get into the habit of going online every couple of days to check your account activity.

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