There are few things more jarring than opening your wallet and realizing your credit card is no longer there. A close second could be logging into your account and noticing a slew of charges that most certainly wasn't yours. Whether your card was physically stolen or the numbers were somehow taken, it can be hard to know what to do next.
Step one: Don't panic.
Step two: Read on to find out what to do if your credit card was stolen.
What to Do If Your Credit Card Was Stolen
The very first thing you should do if your credit card was stolen (literally, as in the card itself, or figuratively, as in the card number) is alert your credit card issuer. You can do this by logging into your account and chatting with customer support (if your issuer offers that) or calling their fraud hotline.
Once you talk to your credit card issuer, they should close your card immediately and issue you a new card with a new number, which you'll receive in the mail. In the meantime, go through the transactions on your credit card statement and dispute any that that aren't yours. If you dispute properly, you shouldn't be charged for the purchases you didn't make.
That's basically all you need to do to resolve the current issue. But, if you have reason to believe that your identity has been stolen, not just your credit card, go to IdentityTheft.gov and follow the steps outlined there.
If you don't think your identity has been compromised but you want to take further steps to be sure that your credit is safe, then you can obtain your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through your reports from all three credit reporting agencies and make sure all accounts listed are accounts you opened. You can then sign up for services that enable you to receive alerts whenever there are changes to your report, so you'll be in the know as soon as anything suspicious happens if it does.
How to Protect Your Card Going Forward (Hint: Focus on Online Security)
As scary as it is to think about your physical credit card being stolen, there's also a chance that the theft will happen online. And that means the best thing you can do to protect your credit card (besides never leaving your wallet, backpack, briefcase, or purse unattended) is to protect your credit card online.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Create strong passwords with numbers and special characters (and change them on a regular basis).
- Never use the same password for more than one website or service.
- Don't log into any financial websites on public Wi-Fi.
- Don't use your credit card to make purchases on sites that seem fake or scammy.
- Be very careful about emails asking for personal information, such as credit card numbers. If the email is about something real, go straight to the website of the company you're working with and complete the purchase or payment there. Clicking on a link from your email to make payments or enter personal information might be risky.
- Set up alerts that let you know when purchases have been made on your card, so you can quickly check and make sure they're purchases you authorized.
If you stay vigilant and double-check anything that seems suspicious, then you're in good shape to protect your credit -- something that will surely top the financial to-do list of everyone in today's technological environment.
This article originally appeared on Upturn.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.