Do you know your credit card numbers by heart? Or at least have them recorded somewhere safe? If you can't locate them, you want to make sure you can put a stop to them before someone else racks up charges on your cards. It's much better to know or record them before they vanish and it's too late.
We surveyed 509 Americans in November to learn that nearly 2 in 3 Americans had either lost or had stolen their wallets, purses, pocketbooks or money clips (we'll use 'wallet' from now on to represent these four accessories). Since the law protects people who report missing credit and debit cards quickly, we then asked those who found themselves in this predicament:
21% said they didn't have missing cards, and an additional 8.2% reported recovering the cards, so they had no need to report. Of the remaining 225 victims, 71% say they reported the loss the day of the incident, while 88% reported the loss within two days. That's extremely important as the reporting speed limits your liability.
For both credit and debit cards, the cardholder should expect no responsibility for costs if the loss is reported before their card is misused. After that, credit cardholders could be liable for up to $50. For debit cards, your liability is $50 if the loss is reported within two business days, but it's $500 if reported later. If it's been more than 60 days after your statement is sent, your liability is only capped by the amount in your account. You could lose it all!
While a small 1.8% waited longer than two days to report their cards missing, 10% never reported their loss of cards at all.
"That ten percent number blows me away!" admits IT professional and identity theft victim Greg Scott. "Who are these people who can afford to have all their credit cards at risk for up to their credit limit?"
You carry your card numbers around with you day in and day out, but do you really know them? MoneyTips wanted to find out if cardholders knew the basics about their cards.
Nearly half the people surveyed didn't know their basic credit card data. If you don't know the issuer, how would you know whom to call to put a stop on your missing card? Only 1 in 4 knew all of their card numbers.
"I'm part of that 47 percent," reveals Scott, author of the identity theft book Bullseye Breach. "I don't record my credit card numbers anywhere, but I do keep login info for all the websites in a private place. If anything happens, I can get what I need from the websites to contact the card issuers. I've been reluctant to record the card numbers because that information could get into the wrong hands and cause lots of headaches."
John Buzzard, fraud and risk expert for credit union financial technology company CO-OP Financial Services, also cautions against writing down actual card numbers for security's sake. Buzzard says, "It is very important to have all of your contact phone numbers stored in a couple locations so that you can contact your card issuers and financial institutions in a time of need. Multiple copies of the same contact list can be stored in your briefcase, home and even with a trusted family member since they contain phone numbers minus the personally identifiable information."
Finally, we wanted to know if people reported their loss to law enforcement.
Surprisingly, nearly 2 out of 3 victims surveyed didn't report their loss. 28% figured since they had misplaced their belongings, there was no reason to involve law enforcement. But what if after they innocently lost it, a criminal found it? 25% didn't report it even though they suspected their belongings were stolen!
"My anxiety level went up after seeing these numbers," says Scott. "How can anyone be that cavalier about their own property? Even through law enforcement has a reputation for not doing anything about credit card fraud, report these losses to get a case number. This could be critical in an identity theft situation."
Age appears to be a factor in reporting, as the older respondents were more likely to report their property taken than younger. "More and more young people are victims of financial crime, scams and online malware," avers Buzzard. "The overarching reluctance to report each issue could stem from the obvious – there is less risk to a young consumer because their incomes are not as substantial as older consumers, but the younger ones fail to realize that bad debt and ID theft could have serious consequences to credit scores.
"If you are not equipped to manage the process of reporting lost/stolen payment cards or checkbooks to your financial institutions, then it's time to formulate a plan. There are many consumer services out there that perform the notifications on your behalf, but you need to establish this relationship before you need it," counsels Buzzard.
For Lost Wallet Protection and Assistance, along with credit monitoring, reports, and scores, plus $1 million identity theft insurance and full-service identity restoration, try a free MoneyTips trial.
For more of our exclusive data and insights, visit MoneyTips Missing Wallet Survey Findings.