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Scammers are everywhere and use dozens and dozens of different tactics to siphon money from unsuspecting consumers. One strategy that thieves employ is stealing credit card information, then using it to go on a spending spree. They can rack up your credit card bill into the thousands of dollars without you suspecting a thing until you see your statement and don’t recognize certain charges.

Learn how to avoid loan scams, here.

It’s easy to pay for everything with your credit card and not actually physically see the money flowing out of your bank account to cover all of your expenditures. But ignoring your credit card statement is not going to make your credit card debt magically disappear, nor is it going to help you keep tabs on your account.

If you don’t monitor your credit card statements closely, you’ll never know if a strange transaction will show up on it, which happens more often than you might think. And the only way to quickly spot a charge that you don’t recognize is by checking your statement on a regular basis.

So, what can you do if you don’t recognize a strange transaction on your credit card statement?

What to Do When You Don’t Recognize a Credit Card Charge

As a consumer, you need to protect your finances diligently considering all the potential for fraud and identity theft these days. When it comes to unauthorized credit card charges, there are certain steps you can take to dispute them and protect your credit card from further use by thieves.

Will paying off my credit card bill help me increase my credit score? Find out here.

Detect these charges early. The first line of defense is to keep tabs on your credit card statements on a regular basis. Whether your credit card was physically stolen or your card number has been compromised, charges can be made on your card without you knowing about them or authorizing them.

It’s not uncommon for unauthorized credit card charges to go unnoticed for a long time simply because cardholders don’t go over their credit card statements on a regular basis. When it comes to effectively dealing with unauthorized credit card charges, early detection is key. If too much time passes before you dispute these charges, you could be stuck footing the bill for them.

Reporting unauthorized charges. If you detect an unauthorized credit card charge on your statement – regardless of the reason – call your credit card provider right away. It is your responsibility to identify these fraudulent charges and report them to your credit card issuer as soon as possible to reduce any liability that you might have. They will usually cancel the credit card account and issue you a new one with a completely different account number.

Just make sure that the charges weren’t made by someone else in your family, such as a spouse or child before you call to dispute them.

You may also want to follow up with a dispute letter to your credit card issuer that explains the credit card charges that you did not authorize or charge. Be sure to reference the initial telephone conversation and include the name of the representative you spoke with.

All credit card users should know these lessons.

How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud

The best way to fight credit card fraud is to never have to go through it at all. There are steps you can take to protect your credit card from being fraudulently used without your knowledge or consent.

Never hand out sensitive credit card information. If you get a phone call or email from someone claiming to be your credit card provider, regardless of how legitimate the person on the other end seems, do not hand over your information. There are plenty of phishing scams out there whereby thieves try to obtain data such as your username, passwords, and credit card details.

If you get any calls like these, call back the company yourself – at least that way you know that you’re dealing with a legitimate party. Then ask if anyone from their company has reached out to you.

Carry your credit cards separately from your wallet. Doing so can reduce your losses should anyone steal your wallet or purse. Further, you may want to consider only carrying one credit card at a time that you require for that particular outing.

Keep a sharp eye on your card during a transaction. When your card is being scanned and processed, make sure to keep tabs on the card so that no one is swapping it for another before handing it back. And don’t forget to take the card back when you’re one.  

Do not sign a blank receipt. Any blank spaces above the total on your credit card receipt should be crossed out with a line.

Save all receipts. As mentioned earlier it’s important to check your statements on a regular basis in order for you to spot any shady transactions on your credit card. By saving your receipts, you can compare them to your statements to verify the validity of any transactions.

Never write your credit card account number anywhere where others can see it. This goes without saying, writing down your credit card number is never a good idea and could lead to serious issues.

Open your credit card bills right away. Again, the sooner you can spot an unauthorized transaction, the sooner you can have it disputed and protect your card from further fraudulent use.

Report any suspicious charges. Call your credit card issuer right away if you detect any fraudulent activity on your card.

Let your credit card issuer know if you decide to travel or if you move. This way, strangers won’t have access to your credit card statements if they continue to be sent to a house you no longer live in.  

Keep Your Debt in Check By Reviewing Your Statements

Managing your credit card debt is absolutely critical to help ensure that your finances are in check at all times, and a big part of that means reviewing your credit card statements every month. In fact, the only way you’ll be able to effectively manage your debt and be completely aware of how much you owe is by reviewing your statements every month.

What happens if I stop paying my credit card bill? Read this for the answer.

Neglecting these statements can risk having your debt slowly mount without you even realizing it, leaving you with more money to repay than you’re comfortable with. Not only that, you could inadvertently be allowing thieves to use your credit card for expenditures that you do not authorize, which means you’ll be adding more debt to the pile every month. Make sure to be diligent with your credit cards and check your statements in great detail every month.

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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