I think it’s safe to say that all credit card charges are unwanted, but today I’m talking about so-called “grey charges”—those out-of-the-blue credit card charges that sneak up on us and require our time, attention, persistence and aggravation to get rid of. A study by BillGuard shows the average dollar amount lost by grey charges is around $356.00per consumer annually.

Studies show 1 in 4 people to be victims of grey charges, and because 9 out of 10 people don’t even check their billing statements or only skim them lookingfor large purchases, those grey charges end up eclipsing fraud—as much as 95 percent grey charges to only 5 percent actual fraud!

While fraud certainly is and will always be a hot-button topic that has consumers scrambling to protect their credit cards (which, in reality, can’t completely be protected; all you can do is pay attention to your statements), grey charges have been absent on consumers’ radars in part because the companies that profit from these charges don’t want you to know about them. Fraud consists of 1 percent goods and services not delivered, 1 percent unauthorized charges and 3 percent “other” fraud, which often consists of hacking or unauthorized charges that occur after you hand your card over to a clerk.

Grey charges occur because 1 percent are billing errors, 2 percent are overcharges, 2 percent are duplicate charges, 4 percent are forgotten charges, 5 percent are hidden fees, 34 percent are just totally unrecognizable charges out of nowhere and a whopping 47 percent are unwanted subscriptions such as recurring memberships, “zombie” subscriptions, unwanted auto-renewals, negative option marketing, and “free to paid” offers.

Here’s how to reduce your risk of grey charges and fraud:

  • Always reconcile your bills diligently and on a timely basis
  • Refute unauthorized charges immediately—within one to two billing cycles
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards offer more consumer protection
  • Use BillGuard to watch your back and protect you from grey charges

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

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