University of Illinois Extension

Protect Your Credit Information

Credit Card Precautions

Preventing credit fraud is not hard. Just keep the following precautions in mind.

Limit the Number of Cards You Carry - Only carry one or two cards at a time. Keep others in a safe place at home. Never lend your cards to anyone.

Cancel Cards You Don't Use or That Cost You More Than Other Cards - Make sure you have paid off the balance. Then send a letter to the card issuer and indicate that you are closing the account. Ask that they notify the credit reporting agencies that the card was canceled "at the customer's request." Request a written confirmation of the account's closure. Keep a copy of your letter. When reviewing your credit history, make sure it is correct.

Treat Your Credit Cards Like Cash - Don't leave credit cards or receipts where someone could see your credit card information. Do not give your card to others to use. When you get a new card, cut up or shred the old one. Sign the new card at once with ink. Memorize the PIN number. Remember to notify credit card companies when you change your name or address.

Reconcile Your Receipts to Your Statement - Save your receipts in a special folder, envelope, or pocket of your wallet. When your billing statement arrives, open it promptly. Check to see that the charges on your bill match your receipts. If you see something on the billing statement that seems wrong, such as a charge you don't remember making or a wrong amount, call the card issuer immediately. Follow up with a letter detailing the problem.

Act Fast if Your Card Is Lost, Stolen, or Used Fraudulently - Call the card issuer right away. Your credit card statement will list a 24-hour toll-free number for reporting. Follow up the call with a letter. By law, once you report the loss, you have no further liability for unauthorized charges. Under federal law, your maximum liability for credit cards is $50 per card. This can add up if you lose several cards. If you report the loss before the cards are used, you can't be held liable for any unauthorized use.

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