Better Business Bureau: Watch your credit card statements

June 13, 2013 

Disbelief overwhelmed Kelly Newell when she opened her husband's credit card statements and saw charges for Facebook advertising.

"I never use my credit cards, but my husband uses his on Amazon.com for a few purchases," the 52-year-old Boise resident said. "He doesn't use Facebook, yet, there they were, thousands of dollars on each card."

Newell says she was reviewing statements to file taxes when she noticed an unusual charge of $1.49 to Facebook, made in January. Then, it reappeared the next month in larger amounts - $30, $50 and $150 ... the totals climbed higher, each indicating Facebook Advertising.

"Everything seemed normal, nothing out of the ordinary other than charges to facebook.com," she says. "But why would Facebook be charging?"

Facebook offers advertising, games and apps online, and users buy Facebook Credits with a credit card, Paypal, or mobile phone to make those purchases. An example of that would be 50 credits is equal to $5.

"I guess they were testing it that first time," she says.

Working with the bank and card issuers, they determined her husband's account information was stolen.

She called the Better Business Bureau next. Credit card theft, skimming and hacking for financial information remains a prime target for scammers. It's important to know what to do should you lose your cards.

First, remember that credit card issuer generally have a 24-hour hotline to report fraud or theft. By law, the maximum liability is $50 per credit card; once they have reported a loss or theft of a credit card to the issuer, consumers have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. If the fraud involves a person's credit card number, but not the card itself, the consumer has no liability for unauthorized use. If an ATM or debit card is lost or stolen, the amount of money someone could lose depends on how quickly they alert the issuer.

Second, if a credit or debit card is stolen or illegally used, go to the police department and file a report. Get a copy of the police report to confirm the nature of the fraudulent charges with the issuer and the credit reporting bureaus. Also, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission online at www.consumer.gov/sentinel.

Third, keep an eye on your credit report. If you lose your cards, and they aren't used immediately, it may affect your credit. Monitor activity on your accounts. The three bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - can flag, or place an alert on an account for fraudulent activity, which then requires that they contact the cardholder before any new lines of credit are opened. People also can ask to have an account frozen, which means lenders can't review your account and prevents new lines of credit from being opened. But keep in mind, it may take several days to unfreeze accounts.

Fourth, follow up with calls to credit card issuers or credit reporting bureaus with a letter outlining key details and summarizing when they alerted the issuer and bureau to the loss or fraud. It is important to monitor credit card statements, bank accounts, and credit reports well into the future for any suspicious activity.

"If I hadn't looked at his statements, it could have been worse, but we only had the incidents on Facebook," she says. Newell followed up with calls to the banks and credit card issuers, and was able to avoid costly charges, counter fraudulent uses and save some headaches.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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