Personal Finance 

How to Recover From a Stolen Credit Card

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Lost Credit CardIf you’ve prepared for losing your wallet, recovering from losing just one credit card is actually quite simple. What’s not as simple is discovering when you’ve actually lost a single card. In our current age of electronic commerce, it’s very easy to “lose” your credit card without actually losing the card. Card skimmers can steal your credit card’s data without you ever knowing it. Ecommerce companies, with lax data security, can experience data breaches that result in your credit card data being stolen.

While credit card companies are becoming very savvy in detecting fraud, as they are on the hook for most of it, they can’t catch everything.

Preparing for a Lost Card

If you’ve done everything I recommended in preparing for a lost wallet, you already have a copy of your card along with the customer service number on the back. That’s step one. Step two is only use credit cards that offer $0 fraud liability. By law, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) limits your maximum liability for unauthorized use of your credit card to $50. Many credit cards will cover the remaining $50 in what they call $0 fraud liability. If the loss involves the credit card number but not the card itself, as in with a data breach or some other such case, then you are not liable whatsoever for the charges.

Review Your Credit Card Statements

Just recently there was a news story about a $10 million credit card fraud scheme that involved small sub-$10 charges to stolen credit cards. The fraud detection algorithms used by credit card companies missed them for the very same reason many consumers did – the charges were simply too small and there was only one charge. It had been going on since 2006!

This highlights the importance of checking all of your statements very carefully and reporting anything that looks wrong.

After You’ve Lost The Card

Report it immediately. Once you report a card as missing, you are no longer liable for any charges made to the card, so if you suspect your card is gone, report it immediately. There is no financial cost to you for canceling a card, you just have to wait until a new one is mailed to you. Then review your statements (again) very carefully for any charges that may have appeared between when you lost the card and when you discovered you lost the card.

Recovering from a lost credit card is pretty easy, especially since you know the FCBA protects you against liability, but it’s still important to be prepared before it happens!

(Photo: thetruthabout)

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “How to Recover From a Stolen Credit Card”

  1. Anna says:

    I’m not sure if you’ve noted this before and I missed it, but you should also make note of what automatic payments come out of any credit cards so, if you have to cancel the card, you can also call the companies where your card was linked for payments and update with new information. You don’t want to get charged any extra late fees for not making your gym or cell phone payment!

  2. The nice thing about using online banking is that you have all your credit card payees, account numbers and 800 phone numbers all in one place. If you lose a wallet or just one credit card you have one source to go to.

  3. Victim says:

    1. The link to the previous article about lost wallet has the final L missing (tries to link to url.htm instead of url.html)

    2. When my wallet was stolen last year, my debit card and all my credit cards were all used (at 24-hr stores: regular stores were closed) except the one credit card that had my picture on the front. That one was not used.

  4. KP says:

    It’s important to note where you say “In our current age of electronic commerce, it’s very easy to “lose” your credit card without actually losing the card.” I’ve never physically lost my credit card, however some clever thief took the information and used it to make over $3,500 in charges.

    Thoroughly reviewing your credit card statement helps you catch any erroneous charges earlier, no matter what the amount.

  5. billsnider says:

    I would also add one more “to do”.

    File a police report.

    Bill Snider

  6. Another thing: read the statements. It’s amazing how many people don’t. Don’t just see your monthly balance, think “that looks about right”, then send a check.

    Months after returning to the U.S. from South Africa, I found that someone there was using my card. They didn’t use it for huge purchases, and maybe that was the idea. My bank reimbursed me, but I had to bring it to their attention first.

    It kills me how old people will say they don’t feel comfortable entering a credit card number online. But no, let’s shop in a regular retail store and give the minimum-wage clerk an imprint of my card and a copy of my signature.

    • Shirley says:

      I use a Discover Card that has Secure Online Account Numbers. When you need to fill out a purchase form online, SOAN pops up and offers to fill it out with a one-time secure number. That number is not good for any other purpose and is attached to your regular account number. It is also documented on your statement for that purchase.

      I believe that Bank of America has a similar program.

      • cubiclegeoff says:

        Other cards have similar options. My Schwab card allows for temporary numbers and you provide the amount you plan on putting on it.

  7. One of the best companies that seems proactive in identifying possible fraud is American Express. I travel outside the US on occassion and they have notified me of several suspect charges.

    Timing is key. Rather than wait on your statements, sign up for online access. Monitor your card activity at least once per week.

  8. It’s absolutely vital to check your statement for fraudulent charges. As the Wired article points out, thieves won’t necessarily max your card out since that will get them caught. A series of smaller charges that may go unnoticed is more likely.

  9. scdavid says:

    Excellent advice about pulling one card out of you wallet for day to day. I’m doing that right now.

  10. Great advice. It’s key to actually check your statements on a routine basis. I had a taxi company charge me $12 in June and then $30 in July and then tried even more in August. I had to call visa to raise a complaint. Luckily Visa refunded my money.

  11. Kathy says:

    A good way to be able to tell the company about the theft is to write down all of the numbers on your credit cards, and put them in a place that you can lock.

    If you have lost the card, at least you have the information for the police and the company.

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