How To Protect Your Debit and Credit Cards
The following suggestions may help you protect your credit card and your ATM or debit card accounts. For credit and ATM or debit cards: Be cautious about disclosing your account number over the phone unless you know you're dealing with a reputable company. Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard. Draw a line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the total so the amount cannot be changed. Don't sign a blank charge or debit slip. Tear up carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly statements.
Cut up old cards - cutting through the account number - before disposing of them. Open monthly statements promptly and compare them with your receipts. Report mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible to the special address listed on your statement for inquiries. Under the FCBA (credit cards) and the EFTA (ATM or debit cards), the card issuer must investigate errors reported to them within 60 days of the date your statement was mailed to you. Keep a record - in a safe place separate from your cards - of your account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of each card issuer so you can report a loss quickly.
Carry only those cards that you anticipate you'll need. For ATM or debit cards: Don't carry your PIN in your wallet or purse or write it on your ATM or debit card. Never write your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other papers that could be easily lost or seen. Carefully check ATM or debit card transactions before you enter the PIN or before you sign the receipt; the funds for this item will be fairly quickly transferred out of your checking or other deposit account. Periodically check your account activity. This is particularly important if you bank online. Compare the current balance and recent withdrawals or transfers to those you've recorded, including your current ATM and debit card withdrawals and purchases and your recent checks. If you notice transactions you didn't make, or if your balance has dropped suddenly without activity by you, immediately report the problem to your card issuer. Someone may have co-opted your account information to commit fraud. Should you buy a registration service? For an annual fee, companies will notify the issuers of your credit card and your ATM or debit card accounts if your card is lost or stolen.
This service allows you to make only one phone call to report all card losses rather than calling individual issuers. Most services also will request replacement cards on your behalf. Purchasing a card registration service may be convenient, but it's not required. The FCBA and the EFTA give you the right to contact your card issuers directly in the event of a loss or suspected unauthorized use. If you decide to buy a registration service, compare offers. Carefully read the contract to determine the company's obligations and your liability. For example, will the company reimburse you if it fails to notify card issuers promptly once you've called in the loss to the service? If not, you could be liable for unauthorized charges or transfers.
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