Scams

Here's What to Do If Your Credit or Debit Card Is Stolen

Be especially careful with your debit card and online purchases, which are increasingly targets for crooks.

The Problem

A criminal who gets your credit or debit card number can rack up big charges.

Scare Factor

Thinkstock

If your credit card number is used fraudulently, you will have to get a new card with a new number, but at least the criminals aren’t spending your money. Legally, you’re respon­sible for no more than $50 in liability for credit card fraud, but all of the major payment networks (American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa) promise zero liability.

How to Combat: Stolen Social Security Number | Medical ID Theft | Tax Identity Fraud | Lost/Stolen Electronics

Armed with your debit card or bank account information, however, a thief could drain your checking account. Theft of debit card data at ATMs, which often involves criminals attaching devices to the machines to “skim” card data, has reached the highest level in 20 years, says FICO, developer of the most commonly used credit score among lenders. As the U.S. payment system transitions to microchip technology, crooks will have a harder time intercepting usable data from payment transactions because the information in chip transactions is repeatedly re-encrypted. As a result, fraud will likely shift to an easier target: use of card numbers to make fraudulent purchases online.

How to Avoid It

Arrange with your credit card issuers and bank to receive e-mail or text-message alerts when there are transactions higher than a certain amount—say, $100—or your account balances reach a certain minimum amount. Check your accounts at least weekly to look for suspicious transactions. Watch especially for amounts of $10 or less; crooks often test the authenticity of card numbers by first making small purchases. When you swipe your debit or credit card at an ATM or gas pump, look for an attachment to the card reader, and shield your hand as you enter the PIN in case there’s a hidden camera. Use a bank ATM whenever possible, says Levin.

What to Do If You’re a Victim:

Call your card issuer or bank as soon as you see suspicious activity on your account. With your bank account, as long as you give prompt notification, you likely won’t be responsible for covering the charges, but you may have to wait until the bank processes your claim to get a refund. By law, your debit card liability could be unlimited if you wait more than 60 days from the date of the fraudulent activity to report it. But many banks have policies to protect debit card customers.

How to Combat: Stolen Social Security Number | Medical ID Theft | Tax Identity Fraud | Lost/Stolen Electronics

Most Popular

Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space
Budgeting

Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space

In this hot real estate market, consider the costs of buying and selling a house along with the expenses associated with your new digs.
November 13, 2020
What Biden Will Do: 24 Policy Plays to Expect From the Next Administration
Politics

What Biden Will Do: 24 Policy Plays to Expect From the Next Administration

The Kiplinger Letter forecasts President-Elect Joe Biden’s biggest priorities -- and the likelihood of progress on them.
November 19, 2020
The 13 Best Healthcare Stocks to Buy for 2021
Kiplinger's Investing Outlook

The 13 Best Healthcare Stocks to Buy for 2021

Most of the best healthcare stocks for 2021 will have some sort of ties to COVID, whether it's producing a vaccine or cure, or benefiting from the vir…
November 20, 2020

Recommended

New Venmo Card Personalizes Rewards
Smart Buying

New Venmo Card Personalizes Rewards

The Venmo Visa Credit Card pays you 3% cash back in the category in which you spend the most.
November 30, 2020
Strategies to Tackle Debt
Coronavirus and Your Money

Strategies to Tackle Debt

Millions of Americans facing furloughs and layoffs turned to credit cards to stay afloat. Here’s how to get out from under burgeoning balances.
November 24, 2020
Great Cards for Holiday Shopping
credit cards

Great Cards for Holiday Shopping

The branded card of a retailer you are loyal to may have strong rewards.
October 29, 2020
Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Banks, Credit Cards and More
banking

Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Banks, Credit Cards and More

We crunched a lot of numbers (and ran a survey) to crown top firms for their service on banking, credit cards, mortgages, and home and auto insurance.…
October 22, 2020