What to Do If Your Credit Card Gets Stolen

What to Do If Your Credit Card Gets Stolen

October 7, 2013         Written By Lynn Oldshue

Credit card theft can happen to anyone. It has happened to Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton, and most recently…me. Yes, a person who works for a credit card comparison website was a victim of identity theft. Oh, the irony.

I was able to take care of all the problems that resulted from this fairly quickly, but that’s because I was prepared for it ahead of time. Anyone is susceptible to this issue, but that does not mean you should sit back and suffer the consequences. You need to do everything you can to avoid identity theft, and then fight it if it occurs. Here are some tips explaining what to do after your credit card gets stolen.

Noticing the Problem

The sooner you notice an issue with your credit card, the less damage you will experience. My incident of credit card theft happened on a card on which I get email alerts. Any time I make a purchase, I get an email. I just ignore most of these because they come so often, but I happened to get an email several hours after I had stopped spending money for the day. I got curious, looked at the email, and discovered a $30 charge at an Arby’s several states away from me. I took action right away.

If you have a chance to set up a similar email program, I would recommend doing so. My phone is linked to my email account, and it is always with me. Thus, I have constant, real-time information about what is going on with my credit card. If you can’t set up something like that, get in the habit of checking all your credit accounts once a day, perhaps when you wake up in the morning or right before you go to bed. This will also serve as a great way to manage your money, since you get to see the state of your accounts on a daily basis.

Once you notice a problem, go back through the last few days’ worth of transactions, just to make sure no other issues have taken place. If they have, make note of them, too.

Reversing the Charges

The vast majority of credit card companies will reverse unauthorized charges on your card. In order to do this, you will most likely have to cancel your card and get a new one. This is meant to be a way to protect your money, but it does mean you will have to wait for a new card to come in. I was lucky enough to have a secondary card for my account in my spouse’s name, so I just used that card during the wait. You may consider setting up something like that now if you want to have a backup plan.

Simply call the credit card company and tell them you were not the one making the charge in question. It will help if you know where you were during the time of the transaction. The credit card company will ask you a series of questions to make sure the charge is, in fact, fraudulent, and then they will start the process of reversing the charges. This may happen instantly, or it may take a few days.

The charge I caught was (and still is) in a pending status, which means the money is out of my account but it cannot be put back until the transaction is completed. The credit card company offered to issue a temporary credit for the $30 transaction, but they explained the money would be taken out again once the charge was completed. Then, it would be re-deposited into the account after an immediate dispute was filed. I chose to just wait for the dispute, but you may opt for the alternative if the charge is on the high side.

Catching the Thieves

In most cases, the police may not do much about your credit card theft, unless it happens to be part of a bigger problem. My $30 certainly wasn’t worth bringing up to law enforcement, especially since I had already talked to the credit card company.

Nevertheless, if you want to learn more about the crime, start by contacting the store, restaurant or other venue where your credit card was used. Let the manager know the time and day of the transaction, and most importantly, the amount. He or she may be able to at least provide details about what was purchased, and may have access to security footage from that time. This could provide you with peace of mind.

In my case, I learned that a van full of large men used my card to buy several Beef n’ Cheddar meals, along with some fried jalapenos. I certainly hope it tasted good, since I’m the one who originally paid for it.

Protecting the Future

Identity thieves can get your card information from a number of sources. Credit card skimming has become a significant problem, where special devices in gas pumps, ATMs, and other machines store the information of any card run through the system. The only real way to avoid this is to avoid using your card altogether. That is not very reasonable.

To minimize your risk of credit card theft in the future, follow these steps:

  • Shred all documents containing personal information with a cross-cut shredder.
  • Use a strong internet security program on your computer if you make any purchases online.
  • Set up an email alert system for your charges.
  • Monitor all financial accounts on a day-to-day basis.
  • Consider using a credit monitoring program that updates you when issues arise on your credit.
  • Be extremely careful about who you give your card information to, especially in the case of phone payments or restaurants.
  • If a place seems suspicious, find an alternative way to pay for your items.

Knowing what to do after your credit card gets stolen should allow you to avoid serious financial troubles. I was lucky enough to escape with only an annoying wait for a new card, but some people are not nearly as fortunate. Follow these tips, and you are sure to minimize your damage and stress.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 7, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Lynn Oldshue

Lynn Oldshue has written personal finance stories for LowCards.com for twelve years. She majored in public relations at Mississippi State University.
View all posts by Lynn Oldshue