WHO’S GOT YOUR NUMBER?
Protect Yourself Against Credit and Charge Card Fraud
- Give your checking account number and current balance to an unfamiliar caller?
- Leave your I.D. and a blank check behind at a restaurant?
- Send cash through the mail?
OF COURSE NOT ! ! ! ! !
But thousands of Americans do things that are just as risky as sending cash through the mail. credit or charge card numbers to unknown callers, or carelessly tossing away card receipts are some of the ways consumers unwittingly fall victim to credit card fraud.
Giving The cost of credit and charge card fraud – to card holders and to card companies alike – may be as high as $500 million a year. Everyone pays for card fraud in higher prices, whether or not they are personally defrauded.
While theft is the most obvious form of card fraud, it is not the only way crimes occur. A more subtle crime is “misappropriation;” the use of your card number (not the card itself) without your permission.
HOW CAN IT HAPPEN?
MISAPPROPRIATION MAY OCCUR IN A VARIETY OF WAYS:
A caller says that to qualify for a discount vacation or a special investment opportunity, you need only give your card number and its expiration date. Neither offer is genuine – the caller wants your card number for an illegal use.
Someone rifles the trash behind a store for discarded card receipts or carbons to get numbers for making counterfeit cards or for ordering merchandise by mail or phone.
A dishonest clerk makes an extra imprint from the creditor or charge card for his or her own use.
CONSIDER TAKING OTHER PRECAUTIONS:
- Keep infrequently used cards in a secured place.
- Carry cards separately from your wallet.
- Keep the card in view, whenever you can, after you give it to a clerk.
- Avoid signing a blank receipt, if possible.
- Draw a line through blank spaces above the total when you sign card receipts.
- Destroy carbon papers on card receipts.
- Instruct others who are authorized to use your account to take these same precautions.
IF CARDS ARE LOST OR STOLEN
Call the card issuer (s) immediately. Most card companies have a toll-free number for reporting missing cards. Some companies provide 24-hour service. By law, once you report the loss or theft, you have no further liability for unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50.00 per card.
HOW TO GUARD CREDIT AND CHARGE CARDS
- Sign new cards as soon as they arrive.
- Keep a record of your card numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company.
- Retrieve cards promptly after using them.
- Void / destroy incorrect receipts.
- Save receipts to compare them with billing statements.
- Open billing statements promptly and reconcile your card accounts each month, just as you would your checking account.
- Report promptly any questionable charges to the card issuers.
- Notify card companies in advance of a change of address.
- Lend card (s) to anyone.
- Leave cards or receipts lying around.
- Put a card number on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
- Give a card number over the phone unless you are initiating a transaction with a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check with your local Consumer Protection Office or Better Business Bureau before ordering.
IF YOU SUSPECT SOMEONE IS USING YOU ACCOUNT NUMBER WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION:
Send the card issuer a letter that includes your name, account number (s), and the charges that you question, with your reasons. You must direct your letter to the “Billing error address” provided on your statement, and it must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you. Sending you letter by certified mail, with a return receipt requested, will give you proof that the letter was mailed and received.
If you decide to call the card issuer for faster action – using the special numbers that many card issuers list on billing statements – follow up with a letter. Only a letter protects your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
The card issuer must acknowledge receipt of your letter or correct the error within 30 days. Or, they must investigate and either correct the mistake or justify the charges within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever is less. You may be asked to sign a statement under oath that you did not make the purchase(s) in question.
You may also (as a wise measure) get a copy of your credit report. In cases of suspected fraud, unemployment, welfare recipients, or if you have been turned down for credit within a 60 day period of the request, your report is free of charge. You must write to the credit reporting agencies and give them your name, address, social security number, date of birth and place of employment. The three major agency addresses and phone numbers are listed below:
EQUIFAX, P.O. Box 105873, Atlanta, GA. 30348 – ph. 1-800-685-1111
TRANS UNION, P.O. Box 1000, Chester PA. 19022 – ph. 1-800-888-4213
EXPERIAN, P.O. Box 2104 Allen, TX. 75013-2104 – ph. 1-888-397-3742
For more information on this or any other Crime Awareness topic, call: (936) 261-4823
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