Q: I discovered $2,000 in hotel charges on a credit card statement in a town I’ve never visited. My bank removed the charges after verifying they were fraudulent. Who will end up paying for them?

A: The fact that your bank was quick to remove the charges is not surprising, considering most credit card issuers do have zero-liability policies in place that protect cardholders from having to foot the bill if a fraudster puts your card or the card’s account number to use.

Keep in mind, however, that even though these policies are in place it is still important to report fraud as soon as possible to ensure the law is on your side. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, the maximum liability for credit cardholders who report a fraudulent charge within 60 days of its appearance is $50. You can actually find a complete explanation of the rules regarding consumer liability in MainStreet’s look at dealing with   debit card fraud.

Who is ultimately held responsible for the charges will depend on the circumstances unveiled during a subsequent investigation.

A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo tells MainStreet that in most cases Wells Fargo covers the cost of fraud. “Merchants generally cover fraud if the card wasn’t present,” she says. 

But having to eat the costs isn’t all that uncommon for merchants interested in building sales and getting repeat customers . 

“Merchants are supposed to confirm ownership of the card and, frankly, not many of them do a good job at it,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. “It's a numbers game. They don't want to inconvenience all of their customers just to catch a few fraudsters.”

Want to know what can and can't affect your credit score? Email your questions to editors@mainstreet.com.