Spotting a mistake or fraudulent charge on one's monthly bill may be the first step in preventing further damage.
But more detailed bills - as mandated by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 - may make it more difficult to sift through the charges, according to a recent report by SmartMoney.com.
The law requires that lenders include a timetable showing how long it would take a consumer to pay off their total debt if they only made minimum payments on their monthly bills. It would also include information about how much would have to be paid monthly in order to eliminate the debt in three years.
With the number of charges on debit and credit cards increasing in recent years, the length of monthly bills has also grown. Their design has remained the same.
"The old conventions that were there with typewriters are still used," David Sless, CEO of the Communication Research Institute in Melbourne, said in an interview. "No effort is made to highlight any information of any sort."
This may cause individuals to look over fraudulent charges, particularly those included in a long list or made at retailers familiar to the consumer.
A large number of charges in between two identical transactions may cause a cardholder to overlook the fact that they've been charged twice for the same thing, according to the report. The size of the charge is also a factor. Irregularly large or small transactions are more likely to catch one's eye.
Fraudulent purchases made at a retailer frequented by the consumer - like a neighborhood sandwich shop or market - may easily blend in with other transactions, according to the report. Distracted or rushed viewing can also lead individuals to overlook fraudulent charges.
The report recommended that consumers set aside time to quietly look over their bills. Comparing charges to receipts may help detect fraudulent transactions.
A recent report by Javelin Strategy & Research shows that identity theft has increased in recent years, affecting 1 in 20 American adults in 2009. This accounted for more than 11 million people and $54 billion in losses.
Consumers who believe their account has been compromised may want to notify their lender immediately. This can help remove the debt from their account and prevent any future damage to their credit report or score.