What To Do When Your Credit Card Is Lost Or Stolen

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stolen credit card

The realization that a credit card has been lost or stolen can create a terrible, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. This sensation only grows as you crunch through worst-case scenarios about soaring account balances, multiple phone calls and letters, and other remedial measures.

However, the steps you take right away can go a long way toward limiting the damage that a potential thief can do with your credit card — as well as limiting the anxiety you'll feel if it happens. Here are the things you can do now to help yourself if you're the victim of lost or stolen credit cards:

• Make copies of the front and back of each card, and write down each issuer's phone number in case you need to contact them.

• Store this information in a safe location in your home, and make sure to take it with you when you travel.

• Never store this information in your purse, wallet, or anywhere close to where you keep your credit cards.

• Also, never store your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.

Take these steps right now while you're thinking about them. The importance of doing yourself this favor can't be overstated. If you have to deal with lost credit cards or stolen credit cards, you'll be very thankful that you took these steps in advance.

Also, remember that federal law dictates that a cardholder's maximum liability for unauthorized use is $50 per credit card. For debit cards, a cardholder's liability for unauthorized use depends on how quickly he or she reports the loss or theft.

Here's what you should do if your credit cards are lost or stolen:

1. Contact TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian, and place a fraud alert on your credit report. This will prevent a thief from opening new lines of credit in your name and from making charges on your lost or stolen credit card. You only need to contact one of these credit reporting agencies; the law requires them to contact the others when someone places a fraud alert.

2. Contact the credit card company, merchant, or lender that issued the stolen card. Make sure to provide as much information as possible about when the card was lost or stolen. Follow up with a letter to the card issuer, explaining the situation and requesting cancelation. Send this via certified mail, return-receipt requested, so that you can verify that the letter was received.

3. Carefully review each credit card statement when it arrives, looking for unauthorized charges, where the charges occurred, etc., and report these charges to the issuer.

4. Review copies of your credit reports from each agency, and keep an eye out for unauthorized charges. Make sure to report any that you find to each agency.

5. Enroll in an identity monitoring service. An identity monitoring service can alert members through a variety of tools and alerts whenever their personal information is used.

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