Jun 5, 2011

When balancing your account leads to headaches

Nothing like purchases on the bank statement that you do not recognize to get your mind spinning and your pulse racing. I had two such charges tonight and they almost made me panic and get my free credit score. I knew they were probably something I could easily explain, especially with me traveling and spending at new places, but it got me thinking of the steps I would take if I really did have suspicious charges on your bank register:

  • Look at the date of purchase and try to remember what you were doing that day. What did you eat? Where did you go? Who were you with? Remember, some times there is a delay, so try to think of the 1-3 days before the purchase date, especially on weekends.
  • Google the name or better yet, if they provide an address you can almost guarantee google maps will jog your memory. I remember in Colorado Springs "SDI" would throw me off when I saw it on my bank statement. A quick google of SDI helped me remember the half priced drinks I had gotten that week for happy hour at Sonic Drive-In.
  • Check your pockets/purse/wallet for receipts. Pending totals may differ from actual totals, especially for gas stations, hotels, or places with gratuity. You may remember spending $24 on a haircut, but the total may be pending as $19 if you left a $5 tip.
  • If your bank provides a category, you may be able to narrow down what you were doing if/when you made the purchase.
  • If you have a joint account, check with your spouse.
  • If you shop online, scan your inbox, sometimes there is a delay in billing and if you ordered something days ago, but it is just now being shipped, there may be a phantom charge you don't recognize.
  • Call your bank, they can see phone numbers an addresses you may not be privy to on your end. They can also transfer you to their fraud unit if they deem the charges suspicious.
  • If the fraud unit deems your account breached, they will freeze your account activity, cancel your card, and reissue you a new one.
  • Follow up with the three major credit reporting bureaus to make sure nothing unusual shows up on your credit report to lower you credit score.

Thankfully, I was able to hunt down my recent receipts in my purse, and the mystery of the two phantom purchases were solved. 99.9% of the time it is an innocent mistake of forgetfulness, but it is nice to have an emergency plan in place on how to handle mystery charges.

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