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If you see a purchase on your credit card statement that you didn't make, it's worth investigating. It could be a simple error — like a double swipe of your card, for example — or it could be someone trying to make a little extra money off of a restaurant bill. Here's how to fix a mistake on your statement, and to make sure you're safe.
1. Talk to the merchant
Before you get yourself involved in a lengthy formal dispute, speak with the merchant. Bring your receipt and credit card statement, and take the time to explain the discrepancy. The merchant may clear up the mistake without having to involve the credit card company. If not, take your complaint to the next level.
2. Prepare your paperwork
While the incorrect charge on your statement might seem obvious to you, you still need to make a strong case. Keep a record of the receipts, credit card statement and anything else that can add to the paper trail. Errors to look out for include:
Returns that didn't lead to a credit on your statement.
Bills sent to the wrong address (so long as you’ve notified your creditor of your address change within 20 days).
And, of course, charges for purchases you didn’t make.
Gather any relevant receipts and documents supporting your claims and make copies. Keep the originals for your records, and gather the copies for your creditor.
Remember: Never give your account information to someone you don't know, and avoid emailing sensitive data like your account number or Social Security number. Also, never give your information when a caller claims to represent your bank or card issuer. Instead, say you'll call back, then call the customer service number listed on the bank's website or the back of your card.
Write to your creditor
Within 60 days of receiving the bill in question, send a letter outlining your objection and copies of your proof in an envelope addressed to your creditor’s department for billing inquiries. To be on the safe side, send the letter by certified mail, so you receive a receipt when it arrives at your creditor’s headquarters. Save the receipt proving they received your dispute with the other documents you’re using to make your case.
You can also choose to dispute electronically, if the creditor's website allows for that. Save any emails you get in return saying your dispute was received.
Final stretch: waiting for a response
You creditor is required to respond within 30 days of your complaint, and the dispute must be resolved within 90 days, or two billing cycles.
In the meantime, you don’t have to pay for the purchase in question, you must only pay for everything else on your statement. However, keep in mind that if your creditor finds your evidence insufficient, you’ll have to pay for the purchase in question, plus any interest that has accrued since.
If your creditor accepts your claim, all charges related to the error will be removed from your statement. If it does not accept your claim, it has to explain to you in writing exactly why the “mistake” is in fact a not a mistake, and you’ll have 10 days to challenge that conclusion.
Creditors cannot threaten you or punish you in any way for filing a complaint. Also, filing a complaint, in and of itself, will never damage your credit score. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute any erroneous charges to your credit card.
Any violation of your rights or the conditions mentioned above will result in penalties against the creditor. You can file a complaint with the FTC if your creditor violates any deadlines or otherwise tries to interfere with your right to dispute the charge.
Be sure to regularly check your credit card statements so you can quickly follow up on any unfamiliar charges.