I recently received a “replacement” credit card in the mail. But I closed this credit card account years ago and didn’t apply for a new card. I don’t want it. Is this legal? What should I do?
Under Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act, it’s illegal for a credit card company, store, or other entity to send you a credit card you didn’t request. (12 C.F.R. § 226.12). So, most companies don’t send out straight-forward unsolicited cards. But some companies try to get around the law by sending “replacement” credit cards for accounts that are no longer active. Sending these types of cards, if unsolicited, still violates the law.
However, if your card is active, or if you made an oral or written request for the card, a company may send a replacement card—even if the new card is usable at more stores or has different features. And, occasionally, a bank might issue a credit card in error.
Don’t just throw an unsolicited card in the trash. Unfortunately, it’s possible that someone applied for the credit card in your name, which means you’re a victim of identity theft. If that’s the case—or you have any other reason to suspect identity theft—you’ll need to take steps to prevent further fraud on other accounts. For one thing, you should immediately place a freeze on your credit files.
Also, you'll need to close the account. If you don't, your credit file might show that you have an account with an open line of credit. Some creditors won’t extend credit to people they believe already have too much credit. Having an unused account could be grounds for denying you future credit or limiting increases on existing accounts.
Before you cut up and toss the card, make a copy and then call the issuer. But don’t call the activation phone number on the sticker on the front of the card. You’ll probably reach an automated system, and you might not be able to talk to a representative. Instead, contact the customer service number or the fraud department. Inform the representative who you speak to that:
After you call, send a confirmation letter (by certified mail, return receipt requested) to the company. Keep a copy for your files, along with information about the credit card, like the account number and name on the account.
Wait a few weeks, then get copies of your credit reports and check to be sure the account is not on the reports. If you find other accounts on your reports that don’t belong to you, you need to file a dispute with the credit reporting agency and contact those companies immediately.
If an identity thief has opened new accounts in your name and you need help dealing with the aftermath, consider talking to an identity theft lawyer or a consumer protection lawyer.