credit cards

How do I prove credit card charges weren't mine?

Justin HarelikDear Bankruptcy Adviser,
I lost my wallet and someone else found it and used my cards. The person also must have used my identity because a bunch of cards were opened up in my name. How does the credit card company conduct an investigation? I don't have any proof I did not make those charges.
-- Anna

Dear Anna,
Identity theft is a billion-dollar problem in the United States right now. Creditors and borrowers are losing the battle as identity thieves are getting more sophisticated and ruthless.

Thief stealing wallet from purse © Kletr/Shutterstock.com

I have been helping people with identity-theft issues for years. Years ago, my clients would have to go through a rather arduous process to dispute fraudulent activities. We would have to put together a letter and complete a long fraud affidavit report form. We would then have to notarize the form and send it in to the creditor. The creditor would reply a few months later after conducting an investigation.

Now, creditors are streamlining the process. The amount of fraudulent activity is so monumental that creditors have concluded the cost of fighting with someone outweighs the benefit of simply writing off the account as fraud.

My current clients call each creditor to report the fraudulent activity. The creditor then sends out a form that can be as short as one to two pages. The client does not need to notarize the form; just sign it and indicate which charges are fraudulent and send the form back in. The most important things a client has to do is fill out and send in the form in a timely manner and make sure the creditor receives it.

The only time I have run into issues for my clients is when the fraud occurred years ago and the client never knew about it. In these cases, the account is with a collection agency and that agency can be very aggressive in trying to collect. The collection agency assumes the debt is valid because the original creditor sold it or assigned it to them to collect.

I personally don't monitor my credit report regularly or utilize credit monitoring services. So I could be a victim of fraud without even knowing it. However, I do try to review my credit every 18 to 24 months for this specific reason. After reading this question, it might be time for me to do it again.

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