What to do if your Credit Card is Stolen

If your credit card is ever lost or stolen, the most important thing to remember is that time is of the essence. Even though most credit card companies will protect you against fraudulent charges of over $50, it is still vitally important that you call your company as soon as you discover that your credit card is missing.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you should phone your credit card company immediately (most have 24-hour hotlines devoted to combating theft), but it’s also a good idea to follow up with a letter including your account number, when you first noticed your card was missing and the date you first reported the loss to the company.

Also important to know is that if you report the loss of the card before the thief can use it, the company cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. You should review your billing statements carefully after reporting the missing card, in order to make sure that no unauthorized charges are being billed to your account. If you notice these kinds of charges, report them immediately to your credit card company at the appropriate address, which is usually listed on the back of your statement.

In addition to calling your own credit card company to report the loss, you should also call one of the three national credit-reporting agencies in order to put your card number on their fraud alert list. You can contact them at these numbers:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

Finally, you should also contact the nearest police station in order to file a report on your missing card, particularly if your entire wallet has been stolen. Wallets are rarely recovered by police, but it’s a good idea to make a report on the off-chance that it turns up.

In addition to all of this information, here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of credit card theft to begin with. First of all, before you have time to think of excuses or other things that are more important to do, you should make copies of everything in your wallet. This includes all of your credit cards, ID cards and licenses. Make sure you copy BOTH SIDES of all your cards, and then make a list of your account number and the phone numbers you must call in the event that your cards are stolen. Keep the photocopy and list of numbers SEPARATE from your wallet in a safe place. Be sure to update this list at least once a year, to be sure that you’ve got any new cards or phone numbers on hand.

Another important thing to include in your wallet is your contact information. If your entire wallet is stolen, it may be found by a good Samaritan who’d like to return it to you. But how will they do this if your ID has been taken? Slip a piece of paper with your cell or home phone number into one of the pockets in your wallet; that way someone will be able to call to inform you if they find your wallet on the street or someplace else you’d never expect.