When your credit card is stolen, your first instinct may be to panic. But things may not be as dire as they seem. Here’s how to tell if your credit card has been stolen and what to do if it happens.
How to tell if your credit card has been stolen
In some cases, a stolen credit card can be obvious. If you are the victim of an actual theft – say, someone rips your wallet with your credit cards in it – you know you have a stolen card in your hands.
In other cases, you may not realize that your credit card has been stolen until you log into your account and notice an unauthorized debit. This fraudulent charge can be large or small.
Sometimes the criminals who get your credit card information will start by trying to hide a small charge under the radar to see if it goes unnoticed.
You may also become aware of a stolen credit card if you try to charge something and your credit card is declined. You may have reached your credit card limit due to unauthorized charges.
What to do if your credit card is stolen
It is essential to act quickly once you realize that your credit card is lost or stolen. Here is what to do.
Step 1: Call your credit card issuer and report the theft
If your physical credit card has been stolen, you can find your credit card company’s customer service number online. Your credit card company may ask you when the card was stolen – that’s okay if you don’t know the exact date. If you still have your physical card with you, you can indicate the date of the first fraudulent debit you notice.
Step 2: List the fraudulent charges on your account
In addition to reporting your card theft, you’ll want to notify your credit card company of any charges on your account that aren’t legitimate. When you dispute a credit card charge, you are not required to pay it until your credit card company has had a chance to investigate it thoroughly.
Step 3: Examine Your Other Accounts and Your Credit Report
It could be that someone has got hold of your personal information and you have been the victim of identity theft more than once. Check your other credit card statements to see if you spot any unauthorized charges, and examine your checking and savings account to make sure funds haven’t been withdrawn.
Also check your credit report to make sure no one has opened a new card in your name. If a credit card account you don’t recognize is on your credit report, that’s a red flag. This is also something that you will want to report to the credit bureaus.
Step 4: Sign up for credit monitoring
If your credit card was physically stolen from you and you reported it immediately, you might not have to worry about identity theft. But if you think it could have happened, you might want to sign up with a credit monitoring service for ongoing protection. In this sense, you can consider freezing your credit for a while.
Step 5: Make a list of your recurring bills and set them up to pay with your replacement card
When your credit card is stolen, your card issuer usually closes your account and issues you a new card with a new number. If you’ve set up automatic payments for different bills using your old number, you’ll need to transfer everything to your new card to avoid being late.
How to avoid having your credit card stolen
There are steps you can take to prevent your credit card from being stolen. The most obvious is to pay close attention to your belongings when you are in public and never leave your wallet or purse unattended.
Often times, credit card theft occurs in the form of having a credit card number stolen, as opposed to the physical card itself. You can help prevent this from happening by following these steps.
1. Make sure the devices where you store your credit card number are password protected.
If you lose your cell phone and it contains your credit card details, it could be problematic if a dishonest person finds it. But if your phone is password protected, your credit card number could stay safe.
2. Never enter your credit card number on a site that does not start with “https”
The “S” in it stands for “secure” and can prevent your personal data from falling into the wrong hands.
3. Never enter your credit card details using an unsecured internet connection
You can, for example, go to a local cafe and use its free WiFi. This is not the place to shop online.
4. Never give out your credit card information in response to an unsolicited email, text, or phone call.
Chances are, you are being scammed.
5. Destroy all documents containing your credit card number
If you get your credit card bills in the mail, don’t just throw them away in recycling after you’ve paid them.
In addition to these steps, you should also check your credit card statements monthly for fraudulent purchases. This won’t necessarily prevent your card from being stolen, but it will give you an incentive to take action immediately and avoid further financial damage.
Getting a credit card stolen can be very scary, so the key is to act quickly once it happens. The good news is that there are protections for consumers, so if your card is stolen, you generally won’t be responsible for transactions you haven’t made. The sooner you report a stolen card, the easier it will be to recover it. At the same time, if you are careful about how and when you use your credit cards, you may be able to avoid having them stolen from you in the first place.