How to Handle a Credit Card Breach While Abroad

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Robert Siciliano

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One of the best and worst parts of traveling overseas is being immersed in a different language.

My wife and I once got lost in Naples, Italy. When we pulled over and asked a stranger for directions, he answered in rapid Italian, which we don’t speak. We had no idea what he was saying, but were mesmerized just watching him talk.

After two minutes he stopped, so we said “Grazie!” and kept moving. Now imagine if you had to deal with credit card fraud in a foreign country, and couldn’t find any English-speakers to assist you.

Fortunately, you only have to deal with your own credit card company, rather than any overseas officials. Victims of fraudulent credit card charges only wind up paying the unauthorized charges if they fail to detect and report the credit card fraud within 60 days.

A 60-day window covers two billing cycles, which should be enough for most account-conscious consumers who keep an eye on their spending. During that time, you are covered by a “zero liability policy,” which was invented by credit card companies to reduce fears of fraud no matter where in the world you travel.

Under this policy, the cardholder may be responsible for up to $50 in charges, but most banks extend the coverage to include charges under $50.

You can effectively stop fraud in its tracks by checking your statements online every day. If you only check every week or month, you will have to dispute that many more charges if and when your account is eventually compromised.

If you fail to recognize and dispute unauthorized transactions on your credit card statements, you take responsibility for the fraudulent charges.

So, to prevent credit card scams, take the time to watch your statements. This extra layer of protection requires special attention. If you check your email daily, you ought to be able to check your credit card statements daily, too, right?

Once a week is sufficient, and even once every two weeks is acceptable. Just be sure to refute any unauthorized withdrawals or transactions within the time limit stipulated by your bank. For most credit cards, it’s 60 days, and for debit cards the limit can be 30 days or less.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask GemaltoDisclosures

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