Dealing with an Unauthorized Credit Card Charge

Identity theft seems to become a more serious problem with every passing day. Credit card fraud is a particularly common example of the issue. Whether you were victimized by a web-based virus that stole your credit card number or by a thief piecing together a shredded card or statement from the trash, you must take decisive steps to correct the problem. If you notice a charge on your credit card statement that you did not authorize, these actions can ensure that you are protected.

# 1: Determine the Cause of the Charge

An unauthorized charge on your credit card statement generally has one of two possible causes. The first, of course, is that your card was actually stolen and used to make the unauthorized purchase. The second is that a retailer charged you for a purchase you did not make or charged you the incorrect amount for a purchase you did make. This second possibility is more likely if the unauthorized payment was to a store or restaurant that you do patronize periodically.

# 2: Contact the Retailer in the Case of a Merchant Error

If you believe the unauthorized charge on your account was caused by an error on the part of the retailer, contacting them should be your next step. The vast majority of the time, the retailer will send you a refund as soon as you draw their attention to the issue. The refund should then be automatically applied to your credit card balance within a few days.

# 3: Contact the Credit Card Company in the Case of a Fraudulent Charge

If you determine that the charge on your card was fraudulent whether because your credit card or its number was stolen or because the retailer made a billing error that they refuse to correct you will then need to contact your credit card company. By law, you are only responsible to pay up to $50 towards any unauthorized credit card charge. However, most credit card company policies state that you will not be responsible for any unauthorized charges if you report them shortly after they take place (the exact amount of time you have to report these charges varies from one company to another).

Simply speaking with a customer service representative at your card company may be all that is necessary to correct the issue and secure a refund in some cases. In others, the company will have you fill out an official report regarding the unauthorized charge. Sometimes they will even refund you the charge before the form arrives, with the understanding that it finalization depends upon them receive the report.

# 4: Replace Your Card if its Number was Stolen

If your card or credit card number was not merely misused, but actually stolen, you will need to have it replaced to ensure that the problem does not occur again. Have your credit card company cancel the old number and send you a new card with a new number. After they do so, make sure you shred your old card and any duplicates of it.

 Author Sam Jones believes that you need to take care when signing up for store cards. He suggests that uSwitch.com  is one of the best resources for comparing store cards and obtaining the best deals available

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