DEAR ABBY: In response to "Ellen," whose 75-year-old friend was out $4,000 (her credit cards were stolen and she was duped by a phone call into not reporting it), and anyone else who has in their possession even one credit card: READ YOUR CREDIT AGREEMENT!
Your maximum liability for unauthorized use is $50 per credit card. Prompt reporting also helps, as you cannot be charged for any purchases made with that card after you have notified the card issuer. That could mean even less than $50.
The sob stories about people who have lost "thousands," with all due respect to this elderly woman, make me ill. Was she carrying 80 cards? Otherwise, her liability could nowhere approach $4,000. More likely, she just didn't know her rights and responsibilities. And shame on Ellen for merely reporting her plight instead of finding out what her friend's rights were.
Also, those other "wonderful" folks who offer (for a sizable fee) to keep records of all your credit cards and notify the issuer if the cards are lost or stolen are a rip-off. You can do the same thing yourself for nothing if you'll just keep a record of each card number and the telephone number to call in the event of loss, etc. The numbers are usually toll-free and are printed on your credit agreement and on the card itself. Just make sure you write it down and file it, because you won't have the card to refer to after it's stolen. -- HOME ECONOMIST IN WOODRIDGE, ILL.
DEAR HOME ECONOMIST: I'm sure the woman who unnecessarily paid out $4,000 because she did not know her rights/responsibilities would have been grateful to have had your reminder at the time.
But credit card registries perform a real service for people who are not as well-organized as you -- and might be too shaken by their loss to think clearly. For a small annual fee, one telephone call is all a person has to make. And for some, that can be very reassuring.