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When your credit card is stolen, your first instinct might be to panic. But things may not be as dire as they seem. Here's how to know if your credit card was stolen and what to do if that happens.
In some cases, a stolen credit card can be obvious. If you're the victim of an actual theft -- say, someone snatches your wallet with your credit cards in it -- you know that you have a stolen card on your hands.
In other cases, you may not realize your credit card has been stolen until you log into your account and see an unauthorized charge. That fraudulent charge could be large or small.
Sometimes, criminals who get your credit card information start by trying to sneak a small charge under the radar to see if it goes unnoticed.
You may also become aware of a stolen credit card if you try to charge something and have your credit card declined. It could be that due to unauthorized charges, you've hit your credit card limit.
Taking action quickly once you realize your credit card is lost or stolen is essential. Here's what to do.
If your physical credit card was stolen, you can find the customer service number for your credit card company online. Your credit card company may ask when the card was stolen -- it's okay if you don't know the specific date. If you still have your physical card on you, you can point out the date of the first fraudulent charge you notice.
In addition to reporting the theft of your card, you'll want to make your credit card company aware of any charges on your account that aren't legitimate. When you dispute a credit card charge, you're not liable to pay it until your credit card company has a chance to fully investigate.
It may be the case that someone got a hold of your personal information and you've fallen victim to identity theft more than once. Check your other credit card statements to see if you spot unauthorized charges, and look at your checking account and savings account to make sure funds have not been withdrawn.
Also, check your credit report to make sure someone hasn't opened a new card in your name. If a credit card account you don't recognize is listed on your credit report, that's a red flag. That's also something you'll want to report to the credit bureaus.
If you had your credit card physically stolen and you reported it right away, you may not need to worry about identity theft. But if you think it could have happened, you may want to sign up for a credit monitoring service for ongoing protection. Along these lines, you may want to consider freezing your credit for a period of time.
When your credit card is stolen, your card issuer will usually close your account and issue you a new card with a new number. If you have automatic payments set up for different bills using your old number, you'll need to switch everything over to your new card to avoid being late.
There are steps you can take to prevent your credit card from being stolen. The obvious one is to pay close attention to your belongings when you're out in public and never leave your wallet or purse unattended.
Often, credit card theft occurs in the form of having a credit card number stolen, as opposed to the physical card itself. You can help prevent that from happening by doing the following.
If you lose your mobile phone and it has your credit card details, that could be problematic if a dishonest person finds it. But if your phone is password protected, your credit card number could stay safe.
The "S" in there stands for "secure" and can protect your personal details from getting into the wrong hands.
You may, for example, go to a local cafe and use its free WiFi. That's not the place to go shopping online.
Chances are, you're being scammed.
If you receive your credit card bills in the mail, don't just toss them in the recycling once you've paid them.
In addition to these steps, you should also make a point to check your credit card statements for fraudulent purchases every month. This won't necessarily prevent your card from being stolen, but it'll prompt you to take action right away and avoid further financial damage.
Having a credit card stolen can be very scary, so the key is to move quickly once that happens. The good news is that there are protections in place for consumers so that if your card is stolen, you generally won't be liable for any transaction you didn't make. The sooner you report a stolen card, the easier it'll be to recover from. At the same time, if you're vigilant about how and when you use your credit cards, you may be able to avoid having them stolen in the first place.
Some other questions we've answered:
If you've had your credit card number stolen, report that activity to your credit card company at once. Then, check your other credit card and bank accounts for fraud, and check your credit report for new accounts that may have been opened in your name.
Consumers generally are not liable for fraudulent credit card charges. If you dispute a charge before paying your bill, you won't be out any money in the first place.
You can stop criminals from getting your credit card details by password-protecting your phone and other devices so that if they're stolen, your credit card number can't be accessed. You should also avoid unsecure websites and avoid entering your credit card details on an open, unsecured internet connection. Finally, don't ever give out your credit card details in response to an unsolicited request, and shred all documents containing your credit card number.
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