Credit card fraud continues to rise as a problem for consumers and credit lenders alike. The credit card fraud is big business in today’s economy.
It’s a clean crime where the criminal doesn’t need to confront or interact with the victim. Most instances of credit card fraud occur online.
Your credit card account numbers may be harvested by hacking into payment websites or by invading your computer with keyloggers.
Private sites online offer credit card numbers for sale and these offers often include your personal and private information such as birth date, social security number and address.
Credit cards are widely used because of their convenience. With a credit card in your wallet, you don’t have to risk carrying large amounts of cash on your person when shopping or traveling. You can pay at a later date, spread payment over a period of time and a lost card can be quickly replaced.
The same convenience we value in our credit cards provides a foothold for thieves to gain access to our accounts and to make unauthorized purchases.
How Thieves Target Your Account
There is a pattern to fraudulent charges that is recognized by law enforcement and credit lenders. The first charge against your account is usually a small amount.
This is done to ascertain if the account is open and if it has a spending limit open on it. The very small charge does not generate much attention should the charge be refused by the credit card company.
If that first trial charge goes through without a problem, the thief quickly adds more purchases to the account. He knows the account holder will eventually notice the problem but has no idea how much time may elapse before that happens.
The pattern often seen is an escalating number of fraudulent charges made to a credit card over a period of days or even weeks. Once a charge is disputed or payment is refused (which may be due to reaching the spending limit on the account), the thief moves on to stealing from someone else.
The Law is on Your Side
Under the law you have the right to challenge any credit card charge on your statement. Once you dispute a charge, the lender must investigate and must resolve the issue.
While the lender is investigating you are not required to pay the amount of money that you are disputing. The lender may not report that amount as delinquent to credit rating agencies as the charge is on hold until a resolution is reached.
You may notify your lender of a fraudulent charge to your credit card by telephone but should follow up immediately with a letter mailed to the lender where you give the specific item you are disputing. You must send this letter to the lender within 60 days of receiving the bill where the charge is listed.
Prevent More Damage
A phone call may prevent further fraudulent charges but you are not covered under the protection of credit laws unless you make your claim in writing to the lender.
Send that letter by certified mail and request a return receipt. This provides you with proof that you sent the letter – and that the lender received and signed for it.
Time required to resolve fraudulent charges depends in large part on how quickly you provide written notification of the problem to your lender.
You need to be specific and include any documentation you may have. Be certain to mail the letter to the address provided by the bank for billing inquiries. Sending the letter to the payment address or corporate address will only delay solution of the problem.
The credit lender is required by respond to your complaint within 30 days to acknowledge receipt of the dispute. Within 90 days (two billing cycles) the lender must reverse charges if they are found to be fraudulent. This includes reversing any late fees or other fees added to your account as a result of the fraudulent charges.
Time requested to resolve a fraudulent charge is dependent on how quickly you notice the problem and notify your lender. You have 60 days to raise the dispute. The lender has 30 days to acknowledge your complaint and then two billing cycles in which to correct the problem.