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Credit Card Protection

Most people have or will experience a problem with credit card bills at some point, such as a mysterious charge, missing merchandise, or identity theft. Federal law protects consumers in these situations. There are certain protections that you should be aware of.

Unauthorized Use of Your Credit Card

When someone steals, borrows, or otherwise uses your credit card without your permission, you are only liable for $50 of the charges no matter how much has been charged. If you report the card stolen before any charges are incurred, then you are not liable for any amount, because your credit card company can then take actions to cancel the card. You can report unauthorized use by calling your credit card company at any time after it occurs, but the sooner the better.

Billing Errors

If a merchant over-charges your account for goods or services, or charges you for something you never received, then a law called the Fair Credit Billing Act forces lenders to follow specific procedures to investigate and resolve the dispute. To dispute these errors you must submit a written letter to your credit card company within 60 days of the first incorrect bill. The letter must include the following:

• Your name and account number
• The dollar amount of the charge you dispute
• A statement of the reason you dispute the charge (unauthorized charge, did not receive purchased item, did not receive credit after a return, charged more than agreed amount, etc.)

Your credit card company will provide an address to send dispute letters on your statements.

Stop Payment on Your Car

Stopping payment is a powerful tool that you can use when you are dissatisfied with something you purchased with your credit card. You can use this strategy if there is a legitimate problem with the quality of goods or services you purchased, and you've made an effort to resolve the issue with the merchant. Notify your credit card company that you are withholding payment for the particular charge, and they cannot report that amount as delinquent to a credit bureau until the dispute is settled, or a court judgment is issued against you.

Further Steps

In most cases, the disputes mentioned above will be resolved after contacting your credit card company. However, if you're not satisfied with the results, there are further steps you can take.

• Complain to the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of Currency). The OCC is a federal agency that regulates most credit card companies. You can file a complaint with the OCC at the following address:

Office of the Comptroller of Currency
Customer Assistance Group
1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3450
Houston, TX 77010

For more information about the OCC, visit

For individuals and families trying to figure out how to pay off debts, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides nonprofit credit counseling, credit card reduction and consumer debt management services for consumers nationwide. Our certified credit counselors provide financial education for anyone wanting to learn how to get out of debt and how to eliminate credit card debt. As alternative to expensive debt restructuring services and credit card debt consolidation loans, our debt management plans are a kind of credit card relief program that have helped thousands of people pay down credit card debt by consolidating payments and reducing interest rates and finances charges. We also offer bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling and other financial education services for help getting out of debt.

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