Unknown Credit Card Charges: Fraud or Legit?

Recently, my mother-in-law discovered that a pretty significant piece of jewelry had gone missing. There had been a number of construction workers in the house for a few weeks and when she went to get her jewelry, it was gone. After searching like a crazy person under/in/on top of everything, she called the police.

When the police arrived they asked a bunch of questions, did an onsite investigation and calmly and collectively stated to her: “You misplaced it. It probably hasn’t been stolen. You will find it in a few days.”

Visibly upset and a little teary eyed, she thanked the officer for his time and collapsed in her chair. Two days later, as she was folding laundry, there it was, nestled with her undergarments. She swears to this day she didn’t put it there, but it must have fallen into the drawer from the top of the dresser on a day she was putting laundry away.

Frankly, minus the calling the police, I’ve done the exact same thing.

When charges are made to our credit cards, it’s very easy to look at a charge, not be familiar with it and immediately suspect fraud. Each month, I reconcile my statements at least twice—first weekly when current charges are made and then when my final statement comes in. And without fail, there is at least one charge that gets me all in a tizzy and requires me to do my own investigation.

When you come across one of those questionable charges (and you will), don’t panic until you take these steps.

#1: Look up the name of the company online. Generally you will find something that will immediately trigger your memory as to what you bought and from whom.

#2: Check your receipts against the dollar amount charged and also look for the company name.

#3: Some merchants include a phone number as part of their merchant information on the receipt. Call the number and be cordial to the person on the phone.

#4: If all else fails, call your credit card company and dispute the charge. You will have to give up some basic information,but the credit card company will get to the bottom of it within two billing cycles.

#5: Sign up for BillGuard for free. BillGuard monitors your credit card charges and alerts you to any potential fraud. If there are any grey charges, BillGuard will flag them and let you know.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.