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It can happen to anyone. Maybe your wallet was stolen and, in it, your credit cards. Or maybe you used your credit card at a gas station and an illegal skimmer stole the number. Maybe your credit card statement was stolen from your garbage can. There are so many ways thieves can steal a credit card, or your credit card account number.
We talk about 5 ways you can have your credit card number stolen — and how to prevent it — in this article.
But what do you do after your credit card is stolen?
First, let’s look at what to do if you realize your card is stolen before the thief makes any fraudulent charges. (For instance, you had your wallet stolen or simply can’t find your credit card anywhere).
Dealing with a Stolen Credit Card Before the Damage is Done
This one’s easy. Call the customer service number for your credit card company immediately and put a stop on the credit card. Request a new card, with a new account number.
Often, the phone number to call to cancel your card is printed on the back of the card. When you travel, write this phone number down and keep it someplace accessible, separate from your credit card or wallet. You can always find the phone number online, but it’s easier to have it handy.
Often, it takes a few days to receive a new credit card in the mail, which can be a hassle especially if you are traveling. Some credit card companies, like Discover and American Express, offer a replacement card overnight at no charge, even if you are traveling overseas.
If your bank or credit card company does not offer this benefit, it pays to ask them to waive the fees and overnight your card anyway.
If you are traveling abroad with an American Express card, you can also check with their international travel centers to receive a replacement card quickly.
If your credit card company can’t replace your card overnight, they may be able to provide a wire transfer cash advance by phone so you’ll have spending money. It’s best to keep some cash on hand when you travel to prevent this inconvenience (and added charges).
Be aware that if you’ve changed your address within 30 days, the credit card issuer must validate the new address before they can send a card, according to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2008.
Dealing with a Stolen Credit Card And Fraudulent Charges
What happens if you only realize your credit card — or your account number — has been stolen after the thieves have made fraudulent charges on the card?
Maybe you received a call from your credit card company because of “unusual activity” on your card. Or maybe you routinely check your account status online to keep an eye on things. (A smart practice to help prevent credit card fraud).
Once again, call your credit card company to report the card stolen as soon as you discover the theft. If you wait too long, this could void your protection against unauthorized charges.
Many credit cards, including American Express, Discover, Citi and World MasterCard, offer $0 liability on fraudulent charges. That means you are not liable for any fraudulent charges as long as you report your card stolen within a reasonable amount of time.
Regardless of your credit card issuer’s policy, under federal law you are not liable for anything more than $50 in unauthorized charges. If the theft involves your credit card number (such as with card skimmers or Internet theft) but not the physical card, you have $0 liability for unauthorized use.
Your credit card company should reverse any fraudulent charges automatically, but read your next few statements carefully to be sure that’s the case — and to be sure your stolen card is no longer being used.
If you see fraudulent charges on your statment, send a letter to the credit card issuer with a photocopy of the statement. Circle the unauthorized charges and explain when you reported the card stolen. Mail the letter to the address for billing errors and save a copy for your records.
You may also follow up by phone to your credit card issuer’s customer service department; they may request you fax a copy of the statement with the fraudulent charges.
It’s a good idea, following a credit card theft, to pull copies of all three of your credit reports to make sure the thief did not get any other personal information, open new accounts in your name, or make charges to other accounts.
Having your credit card stolen is an inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to ruin your vacation or become a financial liability.