Economic Times, September 20, 2009

A sleek credit card may be the perfect alternative to carrying an unfashionably overstuffed wallet. But when it comes to losing a card, the nightmare is compounded by the fact that just anything could have been done with your card between the time you actually lost it and reported it to the bank.

Instead of letting your imagination get the better of you, the safest option is to follow the prescribed norms for dealing with such situations. Not only will it put your mind at ease, it will make your case stronger, just in case a dispute arises. And this is true not just of cards, but any other claim as well. SundayET outlines what your course of action should be if you are caught in a situation where you have lost your credit card.

Undoubtedly, the first measure most people take after losing a card is to call up the bank and ask for all transactions to be frozen. This is generally accompanied by an immediate request to issue a fresh card and once it arrives, the story ends. In an ideal situation, this is all that you would need. But to make your case absolutely fool-proof in case fraudulent transactions have taken place, Amarjeet Singh, assistant project coordinator at the CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training, says it is advisable to get an acknowledgment of your complaint from the bank including the time, date and complaint number as the Bank is liable for misuse only after that report has been made.

You need to follow this up with a report at your local police station with all the details of the card as well as when and where you are likely to have lost the card. “If theft or robbery (a cognizable offence) is suspected, then the police will lodge an FIR, but if it appears to simply have been misplaced, then they will record it in the prescribed daily diary report (DDR),” says Singh. Remember that the police is legally bound to register a report and to give you a copy of the complaint at no charge. If the police refuse to comply, you have the option of sending your complaint by post to the Superintendent of Police who can order it to be registered. In cases of fraudulent transactions online without actual loss of the card, you may have to report it to the cyber crime cell of the police. The cyber crime cell has the authority to delve deeper into the case to figure out whether your computer has been hacked and if so where and how. “The cyber crime cell, however, generally jumps into action only when the transactions involve very large sums of money,” says Dr M S Kamath, honorary secretary of the Consumer Guidance Society of India.

In most cases of card theft, however, experts reckon that the stolen cards are generally used for online transactions such as purchasing air tickets rather than white goods, whose delivery is likely to leave trail behind. Dr. Kamath, however, adds that at all times, the onus is on the consumer who needs to make a clear assessment of his loss and also ensure that action is taken both by the bank as well as the policy.

Once the police complaint is made, you would also need to follow this up with a detailed dispute letter to your bank indicating all the details of the theft and enclosing a copy of the FIR/ DDR report that has been lodged. In fact, the key to winning your case lies in writing a dispute letter that gives a clear view of your stance on the disputed amount. You have the choice of indicating that you do not want to pay the amount till a decision is taken on the issue, which is a safer option than having to bear the brunt of paying higher interest till the entire issue is sorted out.

“Generally, the bank is liable to address it in a time span of about 30 days. If it isn’t completed or you aren’t satisfied with the approach of the bank, then you need to pay a visit to the banking Ombudsman appointed by RBI,” says Singh.

These days, individuals also have the option to enlisting themselves on for card protection plans, with insurance covers, which are offered by most banks. While you need to get each of your cards listed separately, this scheme will take care of the entire process of blocking cards and to a certain degree your loss stands to be covered by the insurance. If you’re caught in a situation where the loss of your card occurs while you’re traveling, then some plans also assist you with travel, hotel and emergency cash within a particular limit. However, some of them do not include fraudulent online transactions within their ambit.

However, irrespective of whether fraudulent transactions have occurred or not, it is always better to ask for a replacement of your card, only once you absolutely ascertain that your credit card is lost. Otherwise, you stand to pay the fees that the bank imposes on you for the new card and will not be in a position to use your old card, even if you eventually get it back.

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