5 Steps to Take if Your Credit Card Has Unauthorized Charges

If your credit card shows unauthorized charges, you have a right to have these charges removed without penalty. Unauthorized charges can be the result of losing a card, having your identity stolen or even electronic errors. In any case, you have to act swiftly to have the charges cleared up.

#1 Monitor Your Credit Card Charges

The most important part of the process is to catch the problem immediately. It is not possible to catch the problem if you do not watch your credit card statements. Today, most credit cards and banks offer online accounts. Take advantage of this option by signing in on a daily basis or a few times a week to review your charges. Check them against the receipts you have saved for the week. 

#2 Get to the Root of the Charge

Even though a charge may be unfamiliar, you may still be the person who made it. Some establishments use a different legal name than storefront name, causing confusion on your bill. Get to the root of the charge by looking up the name of the location where you were charged online. You may find your local restaurant, grocery store or online shopping site is charging you for a valid purchase but using a name unfamiliar to you.

#3 Contact the Credit Card Company

If you discover a charge that is not correct, you need to contact your credit card company immediately. Call the customer service number provided on your card or on the company's website. There is usually a direct extension listed to file a credit dispute. You should have the date of the transaction, amount of the transaction and the name of the company charging you handy in order to effectively dispute the charge. It is important to be polite and respectful at this point in the process. Remember: this representative will be the one helping you resolve the issue.

#4 File a Written Dispute

Ask how to file a dispute. The representative will give you a fax number or address to provide a written statement. You will need to include your account number and the transaction details. You will also have to give a reason for the dispute, which is typically simply "unauthorized charge." Save a copy of the letter you are sending for your records, and include the date on the letter. You will want to have this information in case the company does not appropriately respond to your dispute.

#5 Follow Up

The dispute should be addressed and resolved within 30 days. If this does not occur, you will need to personally follow up with the creditor. You should ask for the name of the initial representative you spoke with; where possible, get a direct phone number or extension for this person. By calling the individual directly, you can avoid waiting times and start with the immediate issue at hand instead of going through the description all over again. If your credit card company simply ignores your dispute, you can file a report with the department of consumer affairs to have the company investigated under the fair credit laws.


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