What To Do if Your Credit Card is Stolen

This morning my son and I ventured out to the grocery store to stock up on our monthly supply of groceries and paper products. Our local grocery store had an excellent deal on paper goods, so we took along the debit card (I normally just take cash on store trips). After checking out and loading up our car in the freezing cold we headed to the gas station next to the grocery store to fill up. It was there that I discovered I had not placed my debit card back in my wallet. As panic began to set in I remembered the same advice I had given to hundreds of panicked callers during my time as a credit card customer service agent (yes, I used to work for the enemy!).

Contact your bank as soon as you realize you and your credit card have parted. Customer liability is capped at $50 for [tag]unauthorized transactions[/tag] (and most banks don’t even attempt to collect that in the name of customer service). Still, it’s important to notify your bank as soon as you realize your card is missing. If you don’t have your bank’s contact information you can call [tag]Visa[/tag] International at 1-800-VISA-911 to be routed to your banking institution. [tag]Mastercard[/tag] has a similar emergency phone number, 1-800-MCAssist. When connected to your financial institution advise them you have lost your credit card and ask that they place a watch on your account while you retrace your steps. If you have no idea where it could be it might be safer to go ahead and request a “block and transfer” to shut down the old card and establish a new account number, card and PIN.

Carefully review your next billing statement and report any fraudulent charges to your bank immediately, in writing. It is a good idea to take notes indicating the person you spoke to at your bank and the times/dates you first reported your card lost or stolen. It is also smart to go ahead and write down the last time and date you remember using your card, along with a short description of the merchandise purchased and total amount. When your statement arrives this will make it much easier to identify which purchases belong to you, and which ones were used by an unauthorized user. If you do identify charges not belonging to you contact your bank immediately and ask to speak to the [tag]fraud[/tag] victim division. They will provide instructions for disputing the charges, and advise whether or not a police report and affidavit is required. Be sure to follow up in writing. Federal regulations require a written letter from the customer to initiate the dispute process, even if you notify the bank via telephone. Send the letter “return receipt requested” so you have a record of when the bank received your notification.

If required, follow through with a police report (call the non-emergency phone number listed for your local jurisdiction) and provide the bank with a copy. If a suspect is identified you may be asked to sign an affidavit of forgery indicating you were a victim of financial fraud. Do not be intimidated, even if you know the person who used your card. Most credit card fraud is categorized as “[tag]friendly fraud[/tag],” meaning the victim knew the perpetrator. Doesn’t matter. The responsible party has committed fraud, and needs to either suffer the consequences or pay restitution to the bank.

My story had a happy ending. Turns out I slipped my debit card in my shirt pocket after checking out at the grocery store. I guess I was distracted by my son who was throwing handfuls of candy and gum on the clerk’s conveyor belt…how “unfrugal” of him!

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  1. Since I personally don’t do credit, I’ve never lost a credit card but I have lost my debit card.

    That was a scary feeling!

    When I realized I had lost it (8 hours later) my first stop was my bank to cancel the card and order a new one.

    That’s good advice about reviewing your billing statement. Luckily, in my case, there were no fraudulent charges.

  2. I lost my debit card once and canceled it immediately. I found it about an hour later in the bag with the things I had purchased (why I put it in there I have NO idea).

    It was a pain in the neck until the new one arrived!

  3. This is where managing your card online is a huge help. You can basically get an up-to-the-minute look at what’s been charged to your card. I’ve lost a couple cards and one time this is how I realized it: I had 8 charges—all of them at McDonalds and Gas stations. All of them between 1am and 6:30am.

    Thankfully, most companies won’t hassle you about this and you’ll get all that back. At least Bank of America does.