Have you ever opened your credit card statement or looked at it online and thought “What is that? I didn’t buy that!”
Sometimes you’ll remember a few minutes later — “Oh yeah, I bought that online late one night and I haven’t even received it yet.” But other times, you truly didn’t make the purchase and you may have been a victim of credit card fraud. And that’s when you might start to freak out a little.
Don’t fret! You aren’t responsible for any unauthorized charges that show up on your credit card IF you report the card lost or stolen before the charges appear on your statement. If you wait and report the loss after the charges show up, there’s a slight possibility (depending on the card issuer) that you’ll be responsible for $50. That’s it.
Unauthorized purchases on your credit card can be due to a lost or stolen card that has compromised your credit card security, or they can simply be the result of a clerical error or computer glitch. That’s why it’s important that you read your statements carefully and frequently (at least once or twice a month).
If you discover an unauthorized purchase, follow these three important steps:
1. Check with the merchant where the purchase was made. It may turn out that you really did buy something and just forgot, or that the merchant's name appears differently on your statement than in their store or online.
2. If you didn’t make the purchase, notify the card issuer as soon as possible. Don’t wait a month or two to report the rogue activity. You can reach Hanscom Federal Credit Union at 800-656-4328.
3. Follow up your phone call with a dispute letter explaining what happened and include the name of the agent you spoke with.
It’s your responsibility to notice and report unauthorized activity. Once you do, the card issuer will quickly refund your money and then begin an investigation into what happened.
To minimize your risk of becoming a victim of credit card fraud, be vigilant about checking your statements and limit the number of cards you use. It will make keeping track of your purchases — and noticing unauthorized activity — much easier.