How to Dispute Credit Card Charges and Other Billing Errors
Use these tips and tricks to fight costly billing mistakes.
The error: Unauthorized third-party charges.
How to spot it: If you enter your cell number in an online contest or accidentally reply to a spam text, you could unwittingly subscribe to a third-party service that provides, say, daily horoscopes. If this happens, a fee will appear on your bill, often with a vague label like "premium services" or "premium messaging."
How to fight it: If a suspicious charge appears on your bill, ask the phone company for more information about it, then ask to remove it, says Malini Mithal, the assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Financial Practices. You can also talk to your carrier about blocking all third-party charges in the future. Customers of major carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, can forward suspicious texts (like an ad for diet tips) to the carriers at 7726 (SPAM).
Credit-Card and Debit-Card Bills
The error: Unauthorized charges.
How to spot it: Scan your bill for unfamiliar company names or charges. If you see something unusual (and haven't lost your card), a thief may have gotten your number via a computer virus known as malware. Or you may be a victim of "skimming"—which happens when someone illicitly makes a copy of your card info, says Jessica Patel, a personal-finance analyst at the information site Bankrate.com.
How to fight it: Monitor your credit-card and bank-account activity once a week. If you find unauthorized charges, contact your financial institution right away. With debit cards, as long as you haven't lost your card, you have 60 days from the statement date to report the charges with no liability. With a credit card, you're protected no matter when you report fraudulent use, and the credit-card company cannot hold you responsible for more than $50. For billing problems such as a dispute with a retailer, you must alert the company within 60 days of the statement date.