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What Happens When Your Credit Card is Stolen

In August 2011 our credit card number was stolen. My husband and I each have a copy of the credit card, and it was in our possession when the Citibank [1] fraud department called to ask us if we would claim over $400 worth of purchases at a department store. Anyone looking at our purchase history could see that this was not normal purchasing behavior for us, and so we were exonerated from these charges.

Canceling the Stolen Credit Card

They wanted to cancel our credit card and give us a new one. The only problem? Paul was traveling for business at the same time and he had no other form of payment than his credit card—just one week earlier his debit card [2] magnetic strip had stopped working and he had diligently ordered a new one just a day before leaving on his trip.

Over the next week Paul had each and every one of his transactions declined by our credit card company on our old card. He couldn’t get gas, buy food, or pay for his hotel without having to call Citibank to approve the transaction. The reason was because the account was on high alert; someone had already lost out on over $400 from fraud and it certainly wasn’t the person walking around with new clothes, or us as federal law limits consumer liability from fraud to $50 [3]. It was left to either the store or the credit card to pick up the tab.

Within this time period, a person in Brooklyn New York managed to rack up two more charges on our credit while using my husband’s identity. Both were at Macy’s. He/She first tested the card out on a $141.54 purchase; once finding out that it worked, they went ahead with a $709.87 purchase. At that point I felt pretty bad about the entire situation (the store and/or credit card company having to pay for these fraudulent charges due to Paul not having another form of money) and got on the phone with our credit card company.

The rep I spoke with was very sympathetic and courteous, and explained that since our credit cards were still in our possession, someone must have scanned the magnetic strip or stolen the numbers off of our card. Perhaps this had happened on the way to the credit card machine at a restaurant, by a dishonest sales clerk, or someone we knew. I agreed to have the account shut down, but on the condition that they send my husband a new credit card by overnight mail to his hotel room. The rep agreed, and even shipped it for free.

Stolen Credit Card: Lessons Learned

Our entire experience did not cost us any money and our credit score [4] was not dinged; however, it did cost us quite the headache and hassle. Here are a few things we learned:

  • Do not let your credit card leave your sight when making a transaction, even when you are at a restaurant (this could be very difficult to do). Someone could easily scan it through their machine to get all of the information from the magnetic strip before taking it to charge at the cash register.
  • If a statement has been issued with the fraudulent charges, your credit card company will not reissue the statement to get the charges off. If you don’t pay the full statement (which I don’t think you should if you believe the charges are fraudulent), then you will be charged interest on the amount you do not pay. Call the credit card company, explain the situation, and have them credit this interest charge to your account.
  • Whoever stole your credit card will not only use it once and ditch it as I had suspected (I assumed that they thought it was only good for one use as most credit card companies will catch it right away). They will use it as much as possible until you close the account.
  • If at all possible, never leave town without two solid forms [5] of payment [6]. Unfortunately my husband’s magnetic strip did not work on his debit card at the same time that this happened. I could have wired him money if we did not find a solution.
  • You will need to fill out and sign an affidavit to the credit card company in order for them to investigate and clear you of any fraudulent charges.

Have you ever had your credit card stolen?