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Reporting Credit Card Fraud

by Barbara Marquand

It's one thing to open your credit card bill and be surprised by how much you spent. It's another thing to discover you didn't do the spending.

Even if your credit cards are stashed safely in your wallet, thieves can get hold of your credit card numbers and go on spending sprees. Here's what you should do if you find fraudulent charges on your bill.

1. Call Your Credit Card Company Immediately

Day or night, call your credit card company's 24-hour customer service line and speak to a representative. Report the disputed charges and ask that the card number be canceled and a new card number issued.

2. Follow Up With a Letter to Your Credit Card Company

Follow up in writing. Include your name, account number, explanation of why you think the charges are fraudulent and a copy of the bill statement with the disputed charges highlighted. Send the letter to the card issuer's address for handling claims of unauthorized use.

In some cases of reported fraud, credit card companies ask customers to sign fraud affidavits. A fraud affidavit is a statement you sign under oath that you did not make the disputed charges. Sign the affidavit and mail it promptly to the card issuer.

3. Don't Panic: Your Credit Card Liability is Limited

By law, once you report the fraud to your credit card company, you have no responsibility for any further unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card, and you'll owe nothing if your credit card has a zero-liability policy.

Remember this if you get solicited for credit card protection insurance. Marketers of these unnecessary plans, which sometimes sell for a few hundred dollars, try to make you believe you'd be on the hook for all the charges thieves make, but that's not the case.

4. Safeguard Your Credit Card Numbers

Protect your credit card numbers by following these tips:

• Don't give out your credit card number online or over the telephone unless you know for sure you're dealing with a reputable company.

• When making purchases, shield your card from onlookers.

• Don't leave blank spaces on credit card slips, where dishonest merchants could fill in amounts.

• Keep track of your credit card use. Compare receipts to the bills to make sure there are no unauthorized charges. Better yet, enroll in the card issuer's Web site and monitor your account online between billing statements.

 

 

 

Published 01/31/11


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