After the presents have been unwrapped and the less-than-desirable gifts have been returned, be sure to comb through your credit card and bank statements. You could uncover a few purchases you never actually made.
Consumers should be looking for transactions that are theirs and making sure that receipts match up following the holiday rush and last minute shopping. If you do find something that’s unusual or out of place, report it immediately. Victims of identity theft typically have 60 days to file a fraud claim with their credit card company or bank. Often times, by the time you receive your statement, it’s already 10 days old, so it’s important to act quickly.
To avoid credit card fraud, be sure to carry your cards separately from your wallet, just in case your wallet is stolen. Keep a record of the account numbers, expiration dates and the phone number and address of each company in a secure place. When making a purchase, keep an eye on your card and get it back as soon as possible.
Be sure to void incorrect receipts, and destroy carbons. Save receipts to compare with billing statements. Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would your checking account.
Never lend your cards to anyone, and don’t leave cards or receipts lying around. Don’t ever sign a blank receipt, and when you sign one, make sure to draw a line through the blank space above the total. You should never write your account number on the outside of an envelope, and never give your account number out over the telephone unless you initiated the call or are sure of the person at the other end.
Remember that once you report the loss or theft of your card, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. Your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card. If you suspect fraud, you may be asked to sign a statement under oath that you did not make the purchases in question.
You should also report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. You can do so by going online at www.ftc.gov, or by calling toll free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.