If it hasn't happened to you yet, then it is only a matter of time until one of your credit cards is stolen. Credit cards get stolen from cars and offices, as well as when your entire wallet is swiped. In other instances, just your card's information may be stolen, which is almost as bad since thieves can make purchases online and over the phone.
What to Do to Recover From Credit Card Theft
1. Immediately contact your card issuer
When you first learn or suspect that your credit card has been stolen, you should immediately contact the bank or credit union that issued the card. Look up the card issuer's phone number online and use your Social Security number to verify your identity with their representative. By alerting the card issuer, it can invalidate your stolen card and prevent thieves from making additional charges. During this call, the card issuer will arrange for a new card to be delivered to you. In fact, many card issuers will provide overnight shipping of a replacement card. If you're traveling, the card issuer might offer you access to emergency cash, although it might be subject to cash advance fees and a higher interest rate.
2. Contact any companies that are billing your card automatically
While it can be convenient to use your credit card to pay for utilities and other recurring charges, the downside is that they will all have to be notified once your card is reported stolen. Look through your most recent statements to remind yourself which companies are set up for recurring billing. Once you have your replacement card in hand, call up each one and change your billing information and verify that you have not had a recent charge rejected. Then, you might also want to update any cards that you have stored with online merchants.
3. Scrutinize your bills for any unauthorized charges
A typical credit card thief will immediately try to rack up as many fraudulent charges as possible before the stolen card is canceled. Thankfully, the Fair Credit Billing Act states that cardholders will not be responsible for more than $50 in fraudulent charges. In practice, nearly all card issuers offer a zero liability policy that waives even that requirement. Nevertheless, it is up to cardholders to identify any fraudulent charges and notify their card issuers. So when your card has been stolen, you should pay extra attention to each charge on your statements, especially since some credit card thieves will try to make small charges that are less likely to be noticed.
4. Take steps to secure your credit cards in the future
Although you can't eliminate the possibility of a stolen card, you can certainly take steps to minimize the chances. For example, you should never leave your purse or wallet in your car or in an unlocked place in your office. If you have many cards, try to carry just the minimum you might need so that if your wallet or purse is stolen, you will have fewer cards lost. Finally, try to use a safe to store your additional credit cards at home so that they are less likely to be stolen in the event of a burglary.
When cash or other valuables are stolen, they are gone for good, but a credit card is merely a representation of your account. By taking steps to quickly close your accounts, order new cards, and report any unauthorized charges, you can quickly recover from the theft of your cards with minimal hassle and without losing any money.