What Happens if Someone Stole My Credit Card & Used It?

by Kay Bosworth
A lost or stolen credit card can cause big trouble if you don't act quickly.

It’s a heart-stopping, OMG kind of moment. Your reach into your purse or wallet to pull out your credit card and it’s not there. Maybe you’ve just misplaced it, but don’t take that chance. Assume the worst: your card has been stolen and someone is about to book a flight to Paris on your dime. Move quickly to protect yourself and get ready to be inconvenienced.

Card Call

Report the loss or theft by calling the company that issued the card. Ask them to close your account immediately. Their phone number is on your statement and their website. The issuer will set up a new account and send you a new card, which may take a few weeks to reach you. The representative you speak with can check recent charges to make sure they're yours. If you don’t recognize certain charges, tell the company that. Follow the call with a certified, return-receipt-requested letter to the issuer, including your account number, the date you discovered the loss, the date you reported it and any unauthorized charges.

Liability Limit

Thanks to federal laws, you won't be responsible for more than $50 of unauthorized charges on your card if you call the issuer within two business days. Once you've reported the loss you aren’t accountable for any further charges. Some card issuers may contact you to question unusual charges even before you notice your card is missing.

Credit Agencies

Contact one of the three major credit-reporting agencies -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian -- and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of them and it will notify the others. The fraud alert prevents the thief from charging things on your card or opening a new line of credit under your name.

Never Again

Once you've gone through the experience of losing a credit card you'll want to keep it from happening again. Make copies of both sides of your new card and write down the issuer's phone number. Do it for your other cards too. Keep the information at home and take it with you when traveling, but don’t carry it in your purse or wallet. Check your monthly statement online because it's faster than waiting for paper statements. Report any errors or unidentified charges immediately. Don’t give out your card number on the phone or online unless you began the transaction and the company you're dealing with is reputable. Don't make financial transactions using a public wi-fi account. Thieves can steal your name and password to get to your bank account.

About the Author

As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.

Photo Credits

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