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Don't Get Careless With Your Cards

credit cards

Police say shoppers and store cashiers should watch out for crooks trying to use stolen debit and credit cards.

Financial card fraud has been keeping police busy for some time, according to Brunswick Police Detective Len Schmauch. And as more shoppers hit the stores, he said the problem is likely to continue.

The best thing people can do to avoid having a debit or credit card fraudulently used is simply to hold on to it.

"People are leaving [financial cards] places -- at the gas pumps or the ATM -- or they are letting relatives use it, and they are losing it. That doesn't indemnify them of the charges made on the card, and people need to realize that," he said.

Federal law limits the liability of a credit card holder to $50 for unauthorized purchases made on a card and wipes out all charges if they are made after the card is reported stolen or missing to the issuer.

For a debit card, there is no liability if it is reported stolen before it is used, but after that, the liability depends on how quickly it is reported after a card has been used.

When a card is illegally used, most card companies will protect the card owner by not honoring the purchase, but the bank that issues the card still loses out.

One thing store owners should do is to verify a card's owner, Schmauch said.

"Actually, businesses would do a favor to the card owner if they ask for identification. Anyone who has a debit card should have some kind of photo ID," Schmauch said. "At a lot of places, you at least have to have the [personal identification number.] That helps us at least narrow [the suspect] down to someone who knows them."

Stopping fraud

Consumers can take these simple steps to avoid credit or debit card fraud:

  • Do not allow others, even family members, to make purchases with the card.
  • Do not share personal identification numbers or account information.
  • Keep receipts and compare them to monthly statements.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Put the card back in your purse or wallet after every transaction.

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