How to Stop Unauthorized Charges on Credit Cards

Identity theft and illicit credit card usage are on the rampage. If you know that there are unauthorized charges on your credit card, you need to start the removal process immediately. Most credit card companies have 24-hour customer support. Credit card companies do not hold you responsible for these charges and, under federal law, the maximum liability you can be held accountable for is $50, but you must protest the charges as soon as you realize that they are not yours.

Look over the credit card statement with the unauthorized charges. Write down all of the charges that are unauthorized, including the dates of the transaction, the name of the merchant and the amount that was charged.

Check with additional card holders or family members who can use your credit card about the charges.

Call the merchant listed for the unauthorized charge and find out what branch the charge was made in. This can help you confirm that the charge is unauthorized.

Contact your credit card company immediately either by phone or online. Locate the phone number on your credit card statement or the "Contact Us" link from their website. Once you get a credit card agent on the phone or online, give them all the information you have. Explain the situation and tell them you would like to dispute the charges.

Give the agent as much proof as possible. This is the information you received when you called the merchant listed for the unauthorized transaction. Often these transactions are performed in areas far from your location. Expect the agent to help you fill out a dispute form and send it to the investigative department. Ask the agent if you should write a letter to the credit card company reporting the fraud after your reported telephone conversation.

Wait for the credit card company to investigate the charges and remove them if they were, in fact, unauthorized. This process could take a few weeks to complete.

Pull a copy of your credit report. You have a right to one free report a year, which you can get from MyFICO or from any of the following credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. You should get a copy from each of the credit reporting agencies, even though you may have to pay for some of those reports. This is important because not every agency has the same information. You will want to verify that other credit accounts don’t have unauthorized charges and that other unauthorized credit accounts haven’t been opened. Contact the credit institutions with discrepancies immediately and report the unauthorized use.