Credit and debit cards have become very important to today’s society. Besides being a fast and easy way to pay for purchases at stores, they provide an convenient way of withdrawing money from a bank account and make it possible for people to shop from the comfort of their own homes.
On the other hand, credit cards can also cause people a lot of trouble. Millions of Americans have problems with credit card debt, and online shopping has made identity theft easier. These problems can only be magnified if a card is lost or stolen. As someone who recently had my credit cards stolen, I know first hand how important it is to protect oneself against any problems that can stem from credit card loss, and what to do if it happens.
The first thing to do, of course, is to report the incident to the credit card company as soon as you realize it is missing. Most companies have 24 hour customer service lines so missing cards can be reported at any time. This is a crucial step to take because the sooner the missing card is reported, the sooner a block can be placed on the account, preventing anyone else from using it. Also, it allows the credit card company to promptly issue you a new card with a new account number (I got mine within a few days of reporting my stolen card). Thirdly, it protects you from being charged for any purchases made after the time the card was reported missing. According to the Federal Trade Commission, if you report a card missing before any unauthorized use occurs, you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. If you report a card missing within two business days, you can be charged up to $50. But, if you wait longer than that, you can be charged up to $500 for unauthorized use of your card.
After reporting your card missing, be sure to check your statements to see that you are not being charged for any unauthorized use. If an unauthorized purchase shows up on your statement, report it to the credit card company immediately. The Federal Trade Commission website states that once you have reported a card missing, you cannot be held responsible for additional transactions.
It is also important to be protected against identity theft in the event that a credit card is lost or stolen. There are several simple things you can do to protect yourself. First, if your card requires the use of a PIN, choose a number that is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess; i.e. birthdays and anniversaries are not good PINs. Once you have chosen your PIN, memorize it and keep it secret. Do not write it down or carry it with you as this provides easier access to your account in the event that the card is lost. Second, periodically check your account activity to ensure that no unauthorized use has occured. Third, keep a list of all your account numbers and telephone numbers of card issuers in a safe place, so you can quickly report a loss if necessary. And lastly, always be attentive to the transactions you make to be sure the the appropriate amount is being charged.