When your credit cards are stolen, it can be a traumatizing experience. Aside from the hassle of reissuing the cards, you may also have concerns about unauthorized use of the cards by the thief. If you take a few precautionary measures and combine them with rapid action when your credit cards are stolen, you can prevent financial losses and minimize related difficulties as well.
Most credit bureaus and agencies recommend that consumers make copies of both sides of their credit cards and keep them in a secure place. On each copy, make sure that the card number is visible, and that the emergency phone number to contact the card issuer is listed as well. Make a separate list of these phone numbers and keep copies in your home, office, and vehicle so that it is readily accessible. If your credit cards are stolen, having this information readily on hand will make the situation less stressful.
The first thing to do when your credit cards are stolen is to report it. Stolen credit cards are used to purchase a large variety of goods, often within minutes of the theft. Therefore, credit card theft is of major concern to credit card companies, who maintain a 24 hour service line to report thefts and unauthorized use. Call this phone number to report the theft and put a stop on your card immediately. Make note of the date and time of your call, along with the person you spoke to, and follow up with a written letter detailing the theft and when it was reported.
If your credit cards are stolen along with your wallet, you have the potential to become a victim of identity theft as well, especially if you carry documents like a driver's license. Make sure that you report the theft of all credit cards and identification to the issuing agency so that rapid action can be taken. It is an excellent idea to make a copy of everything you carry in your wallet, so that if your credit cards are stolen with other objects you can cover all your bases.
After you have called the credit card companies, call the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Report the theft to these agencies so that they can put a hold on your credit, which will allow you to more easily clear it if unauthorized transactions take place. Once you have reported the theft here, get in touch with local law enforcement as well.
Two laws protect you if your credit cards are stolen: the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). The FCBA states that you cannot be liable for more than 50 US Dollars (USD) of unauthorized transactions, and usually less if the theft is reported immediately, or if the transaction involved the card number but not the physical card. The EFTA applies to transfers of funds and Automatic Teller Machine withdrawals. It will not hold you liable for more than 50 USD if you report the theft within 48 hours, but could hold you responsible for up to 500 USD if the theft is reported after that time.
When your credit cards are stolen, make sure to scrutinize the bills carefully for several months afterwards. Report any suspicious or unauthorized transactions immediately to have them removed from your statement. It is also an excellent idea to order a copy of your credit report to check for suspicious activity: if something on your credit report looks wrong, contact the bureau to have it cleared.