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By timestaff
May 26, 2014

Don’t recognize that $500 charge on your statement for Simon’s House of Silly Putty? Call your bank or card issuer ASAP to report the fraudulent charges. (Just be sure to examine your statement carefully prior to calling so that you can run through all the suspicious charges at once.) Your liability and next steps depend on whether the charge was made on a credit or debit card:

If it was made to a credit card…

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, your losses from fraud on a credit card are capped at $50. But if your credit card number was stolen, but not the actual card, you are not liable at all for unauthorized use; any fraudulent credit charges are usually credited back to your account immediately after they’re reported.

If the rep you speak with doesn’t suggest it, definitely ask for a new card with new account numbers.

Read next: These Are the Only Data Breaches You Really Need to Worry About

If it was made to a debit card…

You can be subject to greater liability: Your loss is limited to $50 if you notify your financial institution within two business days of learning of the theft. Your liability then jumps to $500 until 60 days after your account statement is mailed, and after that it’s not capped at all. That said, most financial institutions do not hold debit card users to this liability, instead treating them like credit card theft victims. There’s no guarantee of this, however.

Also, bear in mind that you could also face tighter money constraints resulting from a debit card theft, since the money is withdrawn directly from your account and it can take up to two weeks for the bank to investigate.

Next steps depend on how deep the thief got. If you think only your debt card number was compromised, have the bank cancel the card, and change your PIN. If the fraudsters also have your bank account number, close the account and open a new one with a new number.

In either case….

“If the card issuer agrees to remove a false change, make sure to check back that it has actually been removed or that the money has been reimbursed,” says Neal O’Farrell, executive director of The Identity Theft Council.

Also be sure to inform any companies you pay automatically through your credit or debit card about the change to avoid owing fees or having your service suspended.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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