What to Do if Your Credit Card is Stolen?

March 25, 2010

A credit card is one of those things that many of us have a hard time living without. It makes shopping simpler, and it allows us to reserve things like rental cars and hotel rooms with ease. But when your credit card is stolen, you might find yourself wondering why you liked that little piece of plastic so much. Here is some advice you need to know.

Realistically, there’s not much to fear. Federal law mandates that credit card companies require cardholders to pay no more than $50 in fraudulent charges, and most don’t make them pay a red cent. But if you want to protect your credit, it’s crucial to deal with a stolen credit card quickly and properly. Here’s what to do if one of your cards is stolen.

  • Call your credit card issuer right away, as soon as you realize that your card is missing. Almost every credit card company has a 24-hour hotline for reporting stolen cards. You can find the phone number on your monthly statement or cardholder agreement. Reporting the missing card immediately reduces the likelihood that you will be held liable for any fraudulent charges.
  • Follow up with a letter to the card issuer. This is one of those things that needs to be in writing in case there is any question. In your letter, state the date and time when the card was stolen, when you reported it stolen, and the last authorized transaction. You’ll also need to include your account number, and it’s a good idea to add the name of the person to whom you reported the theft. Keep a copy for your records, and send the original to the card issuer via certified mail.
  • Report the theft to the local police. Let them know that you have already reported it to the credit card issuer, and provide details about who you talked to. They will also want to know when you last saw the card and where.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card statements. If you find any charges that you did not make, dispute them immediately. Don’t expect the card issuer to remove them automatically.
  • Check your credit report periodically. A stolen credit card doesn’t necessarily set you up for further identity theft, but if the thief got his hands on certain personal information as well, he could apply for credit in your name. You can get a free copy of your report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year.
  • Having your credit card stolen is an upsetting experience. But if you act quickly, you probably won’t have to pay any charges made by the thief. You can get a new card and be back to life as usual quickly.

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