Consumer Scam Help: Reporting Credit Card Fraud

Many Americans become victims of credit card fraud. If this ever happens to you, you need to know what steps to take to restore your credit.

My card is lost or stolen. What do I do?

If you lose your credit card or if it has been stolen, notify your credit card company IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you report the incident, the less time crooks have to make fraudulent charges. It is always better if the loss or theft of a credit card is reported BEFORE any charges are made. To report a lost or stolen card, call the toll-free number your company has provided to handle theft and fraud. This number can be found on the back of the card as well as your billing statement. If your credit card company has a website, you will be able to find the number there as well. If you can't remember your account information by heart, all the information needed to make a report can be found on your statement. It is a very good idea to keep a record of your account numbers and telephone numbers of your credit card issuer so that you can report loss or theft as soon as possible. Just make sure that you keep this information in a VERY safe place.

How do I dispute unauthorized charges?

Regardless if the charges are the result of loss, theft, or someone using your card without your permission, your card issuer (and the law) considers any unauthorized use of a credit card to be fraud. Notify the company IMMEDIATELY following the discovery of an unauthorized charge. If you have a Visa or MasterCard, you will need to contact the bank that issued the card. If you have an American Express or Discover card, you will need to contact those companies directly. If you see a charge that is suspicious, the credit card company can usually provide you with additional information regarding when and where the transaction took place. Almost all companies take fraud reports over the phone, but you should still follow up in writing. The issuer will usually want a written statement from you stating that you did not make or authorize the transaction in question. Since your account has been compromised, you will be issued a new card with a new account number. Make sure you cut up your old card(s) and throw them away immediately.

Should I notify the credit bureaus?

If the fraudulent credit card transactions were the result of identity theft, you need to contact the 3 major credit-reporting bureaus immediately. Consumers are protected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act against identity theft and fraudulent accounts. The three credit reporting agencies are Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com), and TransUnion (www.transunion.com). You will need to contact each credit bureau to dispute the account in question. Inform the agency that a fraudulent account was opened in your name. The agency will then investigate the matter further, which under federal law may take no longer than 30 days. The law also states that credit-reporting agencies MUST delete any credit card accounts that are proven to be fraudulent.



Will I be held responsible for any fraudulent charges?

Federal law states that a card issuer CANNOT hold the customer liable for any unauthorized charges made after it has been reported as stolen. The law also states that cardholders cannot be held liable for more than $50 for fraudulent charges that were made before the card was reported lost or stolen. Many companies do not hold the customer responsible at all, even if you report the fraud after the fact.

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