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When it comes to credit cards, I used to be a “what I don’t know won’t hurt me” kind of girl. It pains me to admit, but up until recently, I paid the bill and never even looked at the charges. (Yikes.) Then it sunk in that credit card issuers can make mistakes, and identity theft does happen. If you want good credit, you’ve got to catch mistakes, and if you want to catch mistakes, you’ve got to read your statement. So I changed my ways.

First step, read your statements. Second step, look for errors. And if you do run across a bunk charge on your credit card bill, get that baby cleared up ASAP. Here’s how:

STEP 1: Call your card issuer and explain the problem pronto (definitely within 60 days), asking them to remove the charge. It’s a good idea to put the issue and request in writing and then mail a copy to them, plus ask for a printed copy of the revised bill.

STEP 2: Know your rights. As a cardholder, you have the right to fight certain credit card purchases. You can read about your protections here. Most cards also come with “Zero Liability,” which protects cardholders from fraudulent charges. It’s a good idea to know whether your card comes with this protection.

STEP 3: Eyes on your credit report for the next several months. You’ll want to make sure the issue is resolved and not affecting your credit.

Think it was identity theft, not a mistake? These are for you.

STEP 4: Contact all 3 credit bureaus so they can put a fraud alert in your file and order a security freeze to keep thieves from opening up new accounts. Click on each for the contact info. you’ll need: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

STEP 5: Contact your local police department to report it and ask for an identity theft report. The FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline is another important resource. Call them at 877-438-4338.

Take it from a “You can’t get anything by me” kind of girl: what you don’t know can hurt your credit long into the future. And for more on identity theft, head to WhatsMyScore.

by Variny Paladino

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