What to Do When Credit Cards Are Lost or Stolen

/ BY / Credit 101

At one point or another, virtually everyone misplaces a credit card. In some cases, the missing card turns up quickly -- like then you find out you put it in your pocket instead or your wallet and you accidentally washed it.

Not everyone is always this lucky. Sometimes credit cards are lost and never found again. Other times, they're stolen from a purse, mailbox, or wallet. When a credit card goes missing, it's important to take action immediately to avoid having someone run up unauthorized charges on your account.

When Your Card Is Gone

If you are certain your card is gone for good -- you've checked everywhere it could possibly be or you know for a fact your purse or wallet was stolen or misplaced -- the sooner you take action, the better. The following steps are musts if you lose your card:

  • Call the credit card company. Call the company who issued your card as soon as possible and report it lost or stolen. All companies have a 24-hour line you can call so you can report the card stolen or lost even if it's after business hours. The company will immediately cancel the card, making it so any attempts to use it will be declined. Keep in mind that even if the card turns up later, it will still not work.
  • Monitor your credit card. Get online and check to see if any unauthorized purchases have been made. If they have, report them to your credit card company.
  • File a police report. If someone has actually made charges, you will need to file a police report. The credit card company will want to see this as well.
  • Consider a credit freeze. If your credit card was stolen along with such items as a driver's license and social security card, it's very easy for a thief to steal your identity. Contact the credit reporting companies and put a freeze on your credit. This prevents anyone from opening a line of credit using your social security number until you remove the freeze yourself.

Minimizing Damage

Even if you haven't lost a credit card, you can minimize the potential financial damage and hassle by taking the following precautions:

  • Opt out of credit card offers by mail. If you get credit card offers by mail, you're susceptible to having them stolen from your mailbox and having charges run up without you ever knowing. However, you're still stuck with the bill. The easiest way to prevent this is to opt out of credit card by mail offers. According to the FTC, you can do this by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com.
  • Know what you have in your wallet. Keep a list of the credit cards you carry in your wallet, along with the phone numbers to call if you ever need to cancel them. This way, if your wallet or purse is stolen or lost, you won't forget about any of the cards you need to cancel. Make sure to keep this list in a location in your home instead of your wallet or purse.
  • Never keep your social security card in your wallet. Your social security card should be kept in a safe deposit box or location other than your wallet. Often, your card and ID are all a thief needs to open lines of credit in your name and assume your identity.

Although you are not liable for charges incurred as a result of fraud, losing a credit card is an annoyance that can be avoided if you take the proper precautions.

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Please note your financial situation is unique and our tips & advice presented here may not be appropriate for your situation. CreditCardXpo.com recommends that you seek different advice & opinions from your own accountant or financial adviser who understands your individual circumstances before making any important decisions or implementing any financial strategy.