Friday, March 6, 2009

What to Do When Credit Cards Are Lost or Stolen

Credit cards, ATM cards, and debit cards provide a high level of convenience for people, but if they are lost or stolen, the effects can be drastic. If you experience a loss or theft of credit cards, ATM cards, or debit cards, immediately report them to the credit card issuing companies. In addition, follow up your calls with letters detailing all critical card information including your account number, the date the credit card was missing, and the date the loss was reported.

Fortunately, a cardholder’s maximum liability for unauthorized use of a credit card is $50. If you report the loss before your credit cards are used, you have no responsibility for any unauthorized charges. Liability for unauthorized use of ATM or debit cards depends on how quickly the cardholder reports the loss. Losses can be heavy for ATM or debit cardholders if they are not reported in a timely manner.

Individuals who have reported credit cards lost or stolen should carefully review billing statements and report unauthorized charges to the card issuer along with all pertinent card information. Unauthorized transactions for ATM or debit cards will appear on bank statements, and should be reported to the bank that issued the card.

Prevent credit card fraud by always keeping the cards in a safe place, using an obscure Personal Identification Number (PIN) for ATM and debit cards, and memorizing your PIN. Never use your birth date, phone number, or social security number or any other easily determined number or word as your PIN.

The best way to keep your credit cards, ATM cards, and debit cards safe.

There are a few steps that you can take to prevent unauthorized use of the cards:

  • Only disclose your credit card or ATM card account number over the telephone if it is to a reputable company.
  • Never put your credit card account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.
  • Draw a line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the total so the amount cannot be changed.
  • Destroy card carbons and save receipts to check against monthly statements.
  • Cut up old cards - cutting through the account number - before disposing of them.
  • Open monthly statements promptly and compare them with receipts.
  • Keep records of your cards’ account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of each card issuer in a safe place.
  • Carry only the cards you expect to use.
  • Never carry your ATM or debit card PIN in your wallet or purse.
  • Do not write your PIN on the card or anyplace where it might be seen.
  • Check account activity frequently especially if you bank online.

A number of federal agencies enforce the laws that govern credit card and ATM or debit card transactions. Questions concerning a particular card issuer should be directed to the enforcement agency responsible for that issuer.

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