Was your credit card stolen? No doubt about it, credit and debit cards certainly make life easier to buy what you need, when you need it. They also make personal banking, shopping, paying bills, and managing personal finances a breeze. However, what happens when/if your cards get lost or are stolen?

For example, what do you do when you check your online personal banking account or credit card statement and see charges that aren’t yours?

First, if your credit or debit cards are lost or stolen, of course, always report the incident immediately to your bank so it can cancel the card. Don’t hesitate, it’s critical to report a lost or stolen card right away.

What if you don’t? Well, if someone other than you has used your card to make purchases before you report it missing, you could be responsible for expenses. If someone else uses your credit card account number to make purchases or other charges, you have no liability. Bottom-line: You won’t be responsible for any of those charges.

Additionally, if your account number has been stolen or hacked, you have no responsibility to cover any card use that you did not authorize.

Tips for Debit-Card Safety

If your debit card or PIN is lost or stolen, again contact your banking institution immediately. Typically, if you do this within two business days of noticing the loss or theft, you will be responsible for no more than a certain amount (check with your bank as they all differ) or any unauthorized transactions.

However, if you wait two business days to report the loss or theft, you might be responsible for up to a larger amount (again amount depends on the bank) of any unauthorized transactions.

If you did not lose your card or PIN, but you still find unauthorized charges on your account statement, you have a maximum number of days after your bank sends your statement to report the charge. If you wait longer than a certain number of days, you might be liable for all charges.

Always Protect Yourself

Here are some additional tips to help you protect yourself from fraud:

Don’t lend your debit card or credit card to anyone, and don’t give out your PIN. If you do, you might lose any protection because you have authorized someone else to access your account.

Don’t write down your PIN on your card, and don’t keep the number in your wallet or next to the card. To maintain the security of your accounts and cards, keep your PIN confidential and secure.

When using a credit card or debit card online for purchases, buy only from organizations or websites you know and trust. Before entering your credit card or debit card information, look in the address bar of the website to ensure you see the “https,” a lock symbol or both. These are signs the site is secure.

If you plan to travel abroad, notify your personal banking branch and your card issuers before you leave. This will ensure you can make purchases on your trip. If you fail to notify them, the bank could put a hold on your account because of purchases that could seem fraudulent.

Don’t believe any email or telephone call where the sender asks you to verify your account information. This is known as “phishing,” and is intended to steal your account information. Typically, legitimate banking institutions won’t email or phone you to ask for your account information. If you receive this kind of call or email, immediately call your card issuer.

Check your account regularly using online or mobile banking sites. If you get paper statements, check them as soon as they arrive. Look for any transactions or charges that you do not recognize or did not authorize.

If you think your credit card, debit card or account information has been stolen or hacked, contact your bank or card provider immediately. Cancel the card before there are any more charges made on it.

Change your personal identification number (PIN). If a criminal has obtained your PIN, this will help ensure they are unsuccessful at removing funds from your account.

Follow up with your banking institution or card issuer with a written letter regarding any unauthorized activity. Keep a copy for your records.

Contact one of the three nationwide credit-reporting companies. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit report.

Your banking institution has 10 business days to investigate unauthorized transactions. It generally will correct any errors or unauthorized transactions within one business day after confirming an error has been made.

In the end, be careful of where and how you use your debit and credit cards. If you suspect anything out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to contact your banking institution immediately.