Even if it has never happened to you (and I hope it hasn’t!), you should know how to report a stolen credit card so that you are prepared if it does happen. I can tell you from experience, it takes more than a simple phone call to make sure that your account and your entire identity is protected after a credit card is stolen.
Several years ago, I was out late with friends at a restaurant. After paying the check and arriving home I looked into my wallet for a business card I received during the evening, and happened to notice the credit card I used to pay at the restaurant was gone. I immediately called the restaurant thinking I left it in the receipt booklet, but they insisted it was not there. The next step, after looking up the number to my bank because I did not have it memorized, was to call the bank to cancel the card.
Two weeks later, a savings account I had attached to the missing card was completely wiped out.
The moral of the story? Don’t use your credit card after midnight. Or do, but don’t make the same mistakes that I did here, or risk finding yourself in one of these situations:
- A woman in Delaware stole credit cards out of parked vehicles to purchase cartons of cigarettes.
- A woman in Rhode Island had her credit card stolen, and was sent $65 in delivered flowers – paid for with her stolen credit card.
- In California a pair of men stole a credit card and went on a $100,000 shopping spree.
Unless you have perfect credit with a high income, it’s unlikely that you will have your credit card stolen for tens of thousands of dollars in charges; in most cases, identity thieves are opportunists, and use your stolen credit cards for groceries, gasoline, and other charges that banks are not as likely to notice. However, you should still do everything you can to protect yourself.
Steps to Take To Report Stolen Credit Cards
It definitely takes more than a phone call to report stolen credit cards. My problem started because the bank that issued my credit card did not cancel the card until the following day, even though I spoke to twenty four hour assistance when I called. Then, the bank changed my account number for my credit account, but not for the savings account I had attached to it. This was just enough of an opportunity for an identity thief.
Here’s what to do when your credit card is stolen to protect yourself against further theft.
- Report credit card theft immediately. There was a delay between when I realized the card was stolen and when I called the issuing bank because I did not have the number handy. Keep the phone numbers to all of your credit card issuers in a safe place that you or someone you know can access at a moment’s notice.
- Be aware of how your accounts are connected. If you’re like me, you have your credit card accounts connected to other accounts; I receive bills by e-mail, pay them with a checking account, and have transferred balances between credit cards in the past. When you’re reporting stolen credit cards, it’s like a house of cards: One account leads to another, so…
- Call all of your account issuers. Even if not all of your cards were stolen, call all of your credit card issuers and financial institutions to let them know of the situation, and ask what they can do to help monitor your account.
- Sign up for credit monitoring. If your credit card issuer does not offer free credit monitoring, it is absolutely in your best interest to pay for monitoring yourself through a service like Identity Guard. An instant alert when suspicious activity occurs is invaluable.
If your credit card is stolen, dealing with one hundred dollars in fraudulent charges is just as frustrating as dealing with thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges. Even if you were not at fault, it can take time for credit card issuers and banks to credit back the money stolen from you using your card. Be aware of the steps to take when your credit card is stolen to make sure you don’t find yourself in an escalating identity theft situation.