The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a complaint database for consumer fraud and identity theft providing the information to federal and state law enforcement agencies. These agencies utilize the information to track consumer fraud nationally and internationally. In 2005, the FTC’s report indicates that there were 685,000 reports of consumer fraud and identity theft. Reported losses for that calendar year were more than $680 million. Making credit card fraud the most common form of reported identity theft. What should an individual do if their credit card is lost or stolen? And how can an individual prevent lost or stolen cards?
Keep in mind if a credit card is lost or stolen the first thing to do is to report the lost or stolen card. Most creditors already have security measures in place in case the credit card is lost or stolen. Once notified, the creditor cancels the credit card therefore, no further charges or transactions can take place. Ask the creditor what is their policy for unauthorized charges. The card holder is not responsible for the unauthorized charges after reported lost or stolen.
The Fair Credit Billing Act protects the card holder from paying for fraudulent charges. Again, ask the creditor what is their policy on unauthorized charges. Obtain the representative’s name and extension. It’s always good to summarize the conversation, in case of future questions or problems with . Review your billing statement and look for any unauthorized charges, report them to the creditor immediately.
Creditors are constantly trying to protect their customer from lost or stolen cards. Creditors even have added security benefits that are free or cost a minimal amount. The customer can have the added security but also can take steps to prevent lost or stolen cards.
Keep track of your account numbers and the creditor’s toll free numbers. Write them down, put the paper in a file and store the file where it is safe and easy to access.
Consider pass protecting all the credit cards and debit cards with a unique name or code that can only be verified by the account holder. If the creditor or bank asks what is the password, the individual trying to access the account would automatically be denied.
Register the credit card numbers with a credit card registration service, there may be an annual fee but at least all the numbers are in a centralized place and it is secure.
Apply for theft alerts through the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Unauthorized purchases might be added on a credit report, that will decrease an individual’s eligibility for future credit offers, loans or mortgages. Since theft and fraud are maximum concerns each agency has a separate department that is responsible for fraud.
Experian’s site directs users to the “credit fraud center” that can be contacted by calling 888-397-3742.
Equifax’s site offers customers “fraud alters” that can be accessed online or by calling 888-766-0008.
Transunion offers a “Fraud Victim Assistance Department” that can be contact by calling 800-680-7289
Additional information on credit protection and credit reporting can be found at experian.com, equifax.com and transunion.com.
Credit card theft doesn’t discriminate and simply put-anyone can be a victim. Taking preventative steps to protect against lost or stolen credit cards in the long run saves time, money and preserves your credit history.