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Avoiding Credit Card Fraud: How to Handle Credit Card Receipts

by Barbara Marquand

That little piece of paper the cashier hands you after you make a purchase with a credit card can be a powerful tool in your arsenal to fight credit card fraud.

By handling receipts with care, you can nip fraud in the bud and prevent it from happening in the first place. Here's how:

• Save and Compare Receipts to Your Credit Card Statement

You'll probably notice if charges appear on your credit card statement at stores where you've never shopped. But what if a waiter adds $10 to the total after you sign the bill or a bartender gives himself a fat tip after you've gone home? Chances are if you use your credit cards very much, you'll forget the specific amounts you charged unless you save your receipts. Keep the receipts in a handy file, and check them against your credit card statement. Ideally, you should check your statement frequently online, rather than waiting until your credit card bill arrives in the mail.

Call your credit card company right away if you notice anything awry, such as overcharges or charges for purchases you never made. Under federal law, you're liable for no more than $50 per credit card for unauthorized transactions, although many credit card companies maintain zero liability policies for their customers.

• Credit Card Slips: Fill In the Blanks

Don't ever sign a blank credit card receipt, and draw a line through any spaces where amounts could be added after you sign for the purchase.

• Shred Hand-written Credit Card Receipts

Most credit card receipts won't show your full account number, thanks to the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, in effect since December 1, 2006. The credit card regulation requires merchants to truncate credit card account information on electronically printed receipts. Before the law, all thieves had to do to steal account numbers was swipe receipts from trash cans, shopping bags, and car dashboards.

But hand-written or imprinted receipts are exempt from the law. Those are relatively rare these days, but some small businesses or service people still use them. Keep those receipts safe from others' view and shred them before throwing them away.

Published 10/18/10 (Modified 06/27/14)

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