Identity theft is a serious problem all across the nation. According to the Bureau of Justice, about 8.6 million households had at least one person over the age of 12 who was a victim of identity theft. That’s 7 percent of all U.S. households being affected by this crime. One of the most common ways that identity theft occurs is when a criminal obtains a person’s credit card and makes fraudulent charges on that account. However, you can make the aftermath of identity theft go a little more smoothly by following these steps to successfully dispute a fraudulent credit card charge.
Alert Your Credit Card Company
If you want to get back the money that a criminal has spent using your credit card, you need to alert your credit card company as soon as possible after learning of the fraudulent charge. When you call the credit card company, make it clear to them that you want to file a claim regarding an “unauthorized transaction” on your card. According to USA Today, making sure your dispute gets this classification is the best way to protect yourself and your credit. In addition, you’re more likely to get your money back. Once you’ve made the call and filed a claim, send them a letter to make sure your dispute is also received in writing. It’s not a required step for most credit card companies, but it may help solidify your claim. Include your name and account number in the letter in addition to the details of your claim and how much was fraudulently charged to your account. Don’t send this letter in with your bill or your letter will end up in the wrong department.
The sooner you notify the credit card company, the better. That’s because it gives the company the opportunity to block your credit card and prevent future purchases so the criminal can’t put you even further into debt. In addition, failing to notify the credit card company in a timely manner if your card was stolen or unauthorized charges appeared on your bill could make it more difficult to resolve your case.
Keep Paying Your Bill
Even when you are in the midst of filing a dispute about a fraudulent credit card charge, you should continue paying the minimum balance on your card each month. This will minimize your issues with the credit card company and keep your case from being held up. If the amount that was fraudulently charged to your account was so large that it cost you penalties or made your minimum balance unmanageable, call your credit card company to discuss other options.
Fill Out A Fraud Affidavit
Many credit card companies have their customers fill out a fraud affidavit if their credit card (or card numbers) has been stolen and fraudulent charges have been made. This is a very important document that needs to be filled out carefully then sent back to the credit card promptly. The affidavit will ask for your name, your account number and the details of your credit card fraud. Make sure to include details on each of the fraudulent charges, including on which dates the charges occurred, how much the charge was for and who the merchant or payee was for each charge. Make sure to sign the form properly and get it back to the credit card company as soon as possible – many companies will hold off on filing and processing your claim until the affidavit is received.
Be Prepared to Follow Up
If your dispute is not resolved in 30 days, make sure you follow up with the credit card company to ensure that they are working on your case. Even if you didn’t find out about a fraudulent charge until your bill arrived, your liability is still limited to $50 according to federal law. Keep in contact with the credit card company regularly until your dispute is resolved and the debt from the fraudulent account is removed from your account.
Track Your Credit Report
If your account is fraudulently charged, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t affect your credit report. According to The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003, consumers who are victims of identity theft have a right to a free credit report. In addition, this law gives consumers the right to place a fraud alert on their credit report if they’ve been a victim of identity theft. Protecting your credit is important to your financial future – you won’t want those fraudulent charges to keep you from buying a home, obtaining a loan or even getting a job somewhere down the line.
Remember that the best way to prevent identity theft is to protect your credit card information carefully. Only use your card with reputable vendors and never give your credit card information to an unfamiliar person. Furthermore, keep in mind that many identity thieves can use your credit card account without even having the card itself – just the card number can be enough for them to make purchases with your credit. If possible, monitor your credit card account regularly by calling the credit card company or checking your account online. If you wait for a monthly bill, it gives a criminal plenty of time to rack up thousands of dollars in debt.