ATM, Credit and debit cards provide a convenient and easy way to use money without the hassle of carrying a great amount of cash in hand. In case the cards are stolen or lost, The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) provide the procedures to act upon.
How to Limit the Financial Loss
As soon as you discover that the ATM, debit or credit card is missing, contact the card issuer. Most of the companies have a 24-hour help service for such issues. Report your loss to the customer service representative and then follow up by writing a letter to the company including your account number and the date on which you reported the missing card.
It may by helpful to check whether your homeowner’s insurance policy covers the card theft. If not, some insurance companies do allow you to change your policy to include this.
Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges (FCBA):
In case you report about the missing card before it is used by someone else, the FCBA states that the card issuer cannot charge you for any unauthorized use. On the other hand, if the card has been used before you reported, the maximum charges laid against you can be $50 per card. If the card number has been used only, without the card itself, you cannot be held responsible for any charges.
Also, review the bills carefully that come after the card has been lost. If you find any unauthorized use, write a letter to the card issuer including all the questionable charges, your account number, and the date on which you reported the card missing. Send this letter to the billing complaints department rather than the billing department itself, and do not send any payments unless you are requested to do so.
ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers (EFTA):
According to EFTA, if you report your ATM or debit card missing before it used by an unauthorized person, you cannot be held responsible for any charges. But in case it happens before you report the loss to the card issuer, then according to the federal law, your liability depends upon how soon you report the missing card.
For example, if you report the missing card within two business days, the maximum charges that can be laid against you cannot be more than $50. But if you report your card any later than two working days, you can loose up to $500 due to an unauthorized transfer. In case you don’t report the loss after 60 days of receiving the bank statement showing unauthorized use, you could be held responsible for unlimited amount or the your whole bank balance, or even the unused portion of your line of credit for overdrafts. However, if the unauthorized transfer includes only the debit card number and not the card itself, you can be held responsible for only 60 days transactions that occur after you receive the bank statement mailed to you and before the report of loss. In case you notice any unauthorized transfers on your bank statement, inform the card issuer immediately. Once the loss of your ATM or debit card has been reported, you cannot be held responsible for any unauthorized transfers that occur.
Protecting your Cards:
The only way your cards can be truly protected is if your keep them safe, always knowing where they are, and in case of a Personal Identification Number(PIN) being used, hide the PIN number efficiently. Do not use your phone number, birthday, home address or social security number as your PIN as they are easily detectable. Memorize your PIN number and so change it after some time to make it more secure.
Some of the ways in which you can protect your cards can be:
For Credit, ATM and Debit Cards:
- Be very careful about giving your account number over the phone unless you know you are talking to an authorized person.
- Do not write your account number on top of any envelope or postcard.
- Cancel the blank spaces on the charge or debit slips above the amount by drawing a line so that the amount cannot be changed.
- Never sign a blank charge or debit slip.
- Only save the receipts and discard the carbons, to check against your monthly bills.
- Always throw your old cards after cutting them into half; cutting through the account number.
- Check your monthly bills against the receipts in time, and inform the card issuer of any unauthorized use immediately. According to FCBA and EFTA, the card issuer is enforced to investigate the unauthorized use within 60 days after you receive the bill.
- Keep a record of your account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the card issuers so that you can report the card lost immediately and keep this record separate from the cards.
- Do not carry all the cards with you; carry only those which you think you will require at the time.
For ATM or Debit Cards:
- Do not carry you PIN in your valet or purse and do not write it on your ATM or debit card.
- Do not write your PIN on any paper such as an envelope, a deposit slip or any other paper that can be lost easily.
- Carefully check your ATM or Debit card transactions before you enter the PIN or sign the receipt, as after you enter the PIN or sign, the amount will be deducted from your account.
- Check your account activity at regular intervals specially if you bank online. Compare your recent withdrawals or transactions with your receipts and inform any kind of discrepancies to the card issuer immediately.
Buying a Registration Service
Some companies provide you the service of informing the card issuers of the card loss and request for a new one on your behalf for a fixed amount of annual fee. You will have to make a single call and they will report to all the missing cards issuers. But it is not compulsory to avail such offers as FCBA and EFTA gives you the right to contact the card issuer directly in case of loss or in case you suspect a discrepancy.
In case you do decide to buy a registration, compare and choose the offers carefully to determine the best one. For example, if you report a loss to the company and they fail to report it to the card owner in time, will they compensate for the loss.
For More Information
The following federal agencies are responsible for enforcing federal laws that govern credit card and ATM or debit card transactions. Questions concerning a particular card issuer should be directed to the enforcement agency responsible for that issuer.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Regulates state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, bank holding companies, and branches of foreign banks:
Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Stop 801
20th and C Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20551
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Regulates state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System:
Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs
550 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20429
877-ASK-FDIC (275-3342) toll-free
National Credit Union Administration
Regulates federally chartered credit unions:
Office of Public and Congressional Affairs
1775 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3428
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Regulates banks with “national” in the name or “N.A.” after the name:
Office of the Ombudsman
Customer Assistance Group
1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3710
Houston, TX 77010
Office of Thrift Supervision
Regulates federal savings and loan associations and federal savings banks:
1700 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20552
Federal Trade Commission
Regulates other credit card and debit card issuers:
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) toll-free