|by Jason Steele|
Credit cards are the safest way to pay for anything. Cash can be stolen, debit cards don’t have charge back protection, but credit cards holders are protect from fraudulent transactions under most circumstances.
Identity Theft Can Happen To Anyone
If you don’t believe it, take a look at this article in the New York Times. You figure that if you are Ben Bernake, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve bank and the most powerful person in the financial world, no one would be stupid enough to try to steal your identity. Of course, the joke is that whoever stole his identity is now several trillion dollars in debt.
Credit Card Protections Are Only Valid If Reported Within 60 Days
Here is an article about a man in Denver who was paying his credit card off at a fixed amount every month. I know it’s crazy, but people do this. Apparently, he also racked up some $11,000 of fraudulent charges. Normally, this would not be a problem, except that he actually failed to notice this within the 60 day period. Afterwards, he was unable to get the credit card companies to reverse the charges.
While it is unlikely that someone would not notice such a large charge, it is far more likely that a smaller charge will sneak on your bill. You should really spend a few minutes looking over each statement for errors. Since I pay my bills quickly online, I actually end up spending more time scrutinizing my bill than I do paying it. I don’t actually keep receipts to match up every transaction, although I know some people who do. Instead, I rely mostly on my memory. Perhaps when I get older, it won’t be the best system, but it seems to work for me now.
Follow The Rules
When you notice a problem with your statement, you should first try to contact the merchant directly. It could be an innocent mistake, and it is the right thing to do give the merchant a chance to resolve it for you without incurring the expense of a charge back. If you didn’t know, chargebacks are very costly to merchants as they can raise their fees for all transactions. If the merchant can’t or won’t help you, or the charge is clearly fraudulent, the next step is to contact your credit card company.
Here are the rules for chargebacks that the Federal Trade Commission puts out. The repeatedly say that the chargeback must be submitted in writing. While true, I have never had to do this with a credit card company, they have always taken my information over the phone, and then asked me to submit further documentation in writing. If you are dealing with a less reputable creditor, you should certainly put your dispute in writing as advised.
Documentation Is The Key
These matters will ultimately come down to a “he said, she said” situation if the merchant disputes your claim. The winner will be the party who has the most clear documentation of their case. If you have receipts, emails, tracking numbers or other information, submit it along with your dispute. Always keep any explanations brief, polite, and to the point. I can only imagine what it must be like to be the person who has to read through a hundred of these a day. I would go crazy reading a dispute that sounds like a story from Grandpa Simpson, and I would probably deny the claim without reading the whole thing. Just be glad I don’t have that job!
One Last Word
Finally, I will never be able to think of the term “Identity Theft” without recalling this clip that I posted a couple weeks ago. It is a classic.