If someone uses your credit card without authorization you can bring legal proceedings against the person under state law. State law determines the length of time allowed to bring suit -- known as the statute of limitations -- on charges stemming from credit card fraud.
Statutes of limitations on credit card fraud vary widely from state to state. For example, the Alabama statute of limitations on fraud is two years from when the credit card fraud was or reasonably should have been discovered. At 10 years, the Alaska statute of limitations on fraud is more than triple the Alabama statute of limitations. The Alaska statute of limitations starts from when the credit card fraud was first disclosed or reasonably should have been discovered.
You can sue in a state court for the amount of money charged on a stolen credit card. However, you may only receive a judgment order for up to the amount of money charged on the card plus filing fees and attorney's fees, if applicable. If you do not file suit before the statute of limitations runs out, you forfeit any legal right to collect the money in a state court now or in the future.
Filing a Lawsuit
When filing a lawsuit, provide supporting documentation, such as credit account statements and receipts, if applicable. Contact merchants for duplicate copies of unauthorized transactions if you do not already have them. Complete the appropriate forms by visiting the county clerk's office. Typically, you must provide your full legal name and mailing address, the defendant's full legal name and mailing address, the amount of money you are seeking to recover, and the disclosure date of the fraud.
Preventing Credit Card Fraud
The Federal Trade Commission offers free tips on how to avoid credit and charge card fraud. For example, sign the backs of credit cards as soon as they arrive; keep a record of account numbers in a secure place; monitor transactions for errors and ensure that you receive your credit card back immediately; compare receipts with billing statements; and request an investigation into questionable charges by the credit card issuer.
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