BBB urges consumers to scrutinize credit card bills

January 27, 2011 4:37:25 AM PST
After rushing around charging various items over the holiday season, it's easy to lose track of what you charged.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds consumers that it's extremely important to make sure you check every charge to make sure it's yours and that it's accurate.

Under federal law, shoppers can dispute the charges on their credit cards if they don't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.

"Check your credit card statements often for unauthorized activity," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "And don't wait for paper statements. The BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly."

The BBB recommends the following to help prevent unauthorized credit card charges:

Keep documentation of your order - After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail. Save a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference as well as any receipts obtained from brick and mortar stores.

Will your personal information be protected? - When shopping online, read the website's privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn't one posted, consider that a warning that your personal information may be sold to others.

Will your online purchase be secure? - Look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. Don't be fooled by spoofed sites that feature convincing security measures. If you have doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is "not encrypted."

Beware of phishing - Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the "buyer" into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone after verifying the genuine number and calling the contact number on the Web site where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.

Watch out for skimming - A dishonest employee at the point of purchase could scan the card on an authorized machine before returning the card. The card number could then be used by the employee and/or sold to someone else.

"Identity theft can happen to you whether you're shopping online or shopping at the mall, making it critical that we all take specific steps to fight both low and high-tech ID thieves," added Bernas. "Having your credit card numbers stolen or your computer maliciously hacked will put a damper on anyone's holiday cheer."

For more information on protecting your identity or credit card usage, visit

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