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Why you can be on the hook for credit card charges you didn't make -- and how to avoid it

Holly D. Johnson, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Imagine you connect a credit card to a game on your child’s phone for convenience. A few weeks later, you find out thousands in charges were processed to your card in a matter of days.

It’s possible your child is unaware they authorized these charges while playing a game. It’s also possible the account on the game was a target of fraud. Either way, you now have a huge credit card bill to contend with.

Should you pay the bill or dispute it?

Believe it or not, this situation is incredibly common. In fact, a recent story in BBC News profiled a family whose child spent 3,160 euros (around $3,700) on a game called Hidden Artifacts. Another testimonial explained how a 10-year-old girl racked up $7,200 in Roblox charges on her phone during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

In some cases, it can be difficult to know whether a charge is unauthorized or “fraudulent,” or whether it’s your issue to deal with. Bankrate spoke to several credit experts to find out how consumers can tell the difference and how they can protect themselves.

What is an unauthorized charge?


Generally speaking, an unauthorized credit card charge is one you didn’t make that you don’t have any explanation for. Many times, unauthorized charges are discovered when someone is going over their credit card statements and notices charges they didn’t make. For example, you might see a purchase from a store you’ve never been to or notice repeated charges you don’t even recognize.

“In this case, someone has your account number and used it without authorization,” says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and consumer finance analyst for U.S. News & World Report. This is why Harzog and other experts agree it’s a really good idea for consumers to check their credit card statements often.

Most credit cards come with liability protection against situations just like that. This embedded protection against fraud is one of the biggest benefits of using credit in the first place.

What if a friend or child uses your credit card?


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