Realizing that your credit, debit, or ATM cards might be stolen or hearing the news that a store you shop at often has suffered a data breach is definitely troublesome. Your first instinct might be to panic, but take a deep breath. There are steps you can take to protect yourself against unauthorized charges.
Here's what to do if your credit, debit, or ATM card was stolen.
#1 Report the theft of your credit, debit, or ATM card immediately!
Acting fast limits your liability for charges you didn’t authorize. Federal law says you cannot be held liable for unauthorized transfers once you report the loss of your credit, debit or ATM card. Add the 24-hour toll-free emergency phone number printed on the card to your phone contacts for easy access. If you shopped at a retailer that experienced a data security breach, your account may not immediately show unexplained charges. Your best option is to contact your financial institution to let them know your card may have been compromised.
#2 Put a fraud alert on your credit report.
Avoid the havoc a fraudulent spending spree can wreak on your credit by alerting one of the three national credit-reporting agencies. It’s free to ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit report, and the company you contact will alert the other two agencies. Here's the contact information for each:
#3 Check your account statement carefully and frequently.
In addition, continue to review your credit and bank account statements for suspicious transactions. Report any that you find to the card issuer as quickly as possible. And then follow up with a letter or email that includes your account number, the date and time you noticed your card was missing, and when you first reported the loss.
Your Liability for Fraudulent Charges
The Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfer Act offer protection to consumers who have had a credit, debit, or ATM card stolen. If you report that your card is missing before someone uses it, you are not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. And if your credit card number is stolen, but you still have the card, you won't be held liable for any unauthorized charges. If the actual card is stolen, you may be responsible for up to $50 on a credit card, but on a debit or ATM card the amount you are liable for is based on how long it takes you to report the card missing. If you don’t report it all, you can be liable for any money taken from your ATM/debit card account.
If you discover someone has obtained your personal information and is using it to make fraudulent charges, you can submit a report about the theft directly with the Federal Trade Commission. First, you will need to file a police report. Then, submit the police report along with an Identity Theft Affidavit to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. After completing the report, you will be given a complaint reference number to use to update information at any time. Visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Resource Center for more information on how to file a claim.
Protect Your Cards and Account Information
Whether you’ve already fallen victim to fraud or not, you should always take precautions with your financial information.
- Don’t provide your credit, debit or account number over the phone unless you initiate the conversation and know you are dealing with a reputable company.
- Check your account activity often. The earlier you notice unauthorized activity, the better.
- Never write down PINs. And never write it on the actual card!
- Properly destroy old cards.
- Carry only the cards you use regularly. If your wallet is stolen at least some of your accounts will remain safe.
- Shred any documents that contain your account information before disposal.
Lakeland Bank offers Elite Checking with identity theft monitoring and protection, payment card protection, and restoration and recovery services.