find it easy and convenient to use credit cards and ATM or debit
cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund
Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures for you to use if your cards
are lost or stolen.
Your Financial Loss
the loss or theft of your credit cards and your ATM or debit cards
to the card issuers as quickly as possible. Many companies have
toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies.
It's a good idea to follow up your phone calls with a letter.
Include your account number, when you noticed your card was missing,
and the date you first reported the loss.
You also may
want to check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it covers
your liability for card thefts. If not, some insurance companies
will allow you to change your policy to include this protection.
Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges (FCBA)
Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use
of your credit card is $50. If you report the loss before your
credit cards are used, the FCBA says the card issuer cannot hold
you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief uses
your cards before you report them missing, the most you will owe
for unauthorized charges is $50 per card. Also, if the loss involves
your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no
liability for unauthorized use.
loss, review your billing statements carefully. If they show any
unauthorized charges, it's best to send a letter to the card issuer
describing each questionable charge. Again, tell the card issuer
the date your card was lost or stolen, or when you first noticed
unauthorized charges, and when you first reported the problem
to them. Be sure to send the letter to the address provided for
billing errors. Do not send it with a payment or to the address
where you send your payments unless you are directed to do so.
or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers (EFTA)
Your liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your
ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss.
If you report an ATM or debit card missing before it's used without
your permission, the EFTA says the card issuer cannot hold you
responsible for any unauthorized transfers. If unauthorized use
occurs before you report it, your liability under federal law
depends on how quickly you report the loss.
if you report the loss within two business days after you realize
your card is missing, you will not be responsible for more than
$50 for unauthorized use. However, if you don't report the loss
within two business days after you discover the loss, you could
lose up to $500 because of an unauthorized transfer. You also
risk unlimited loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer
within 60 days after your bank statement containing unauthorized
use is mailed to you. That means you could lose all the money
in your bank account and the unused portion of your line of credit
established for overdrafts. However, for unauthorized transfers
involving only your debit card number (not the loss of the card),
you are liable only for transfers that occur after 60 days following
the mailing of your bank statement containing the unauthorized
use and before you report the loss.
transfers show up on your bank statement, report them to the card
issuer as quickly as possible. Once you've reported the loss of
your ATM or debit card, you cannot be held liable for additional
unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.
The best protections against card fraud are to know where
your cards are at all times and to keep them secure. For protection
of ATM and debit cards that involve a Personal Identification
Number (PIN), keep your PIN a secret. Don't use your address,
birthdate, phone or Social Security number as the PIN and do memorize
suggestions may help you protect your credit card and your ATM
or debit card accounts.
Credit and ATM or Debit Cards:
- Be cautious
about disclosing your account number over the phone unless you
know you're dealing with a reputable company.
- Never put
your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.
- Draw a
line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the
total so the amount cannot be changed.
- Don't sign
a blank charge or debit slip.
- Tear up
carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly
- Cut up
old cards - cutting through the account number - before disposing
- Open monthly
statements promptly and compare them with your receipts. Report
mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible to the special
address listed on your statement for inquiries. Under the FCBA
(credit cards) and the EFTA (ATM or debit cards), the card issuer
must investigate errors reported to them within 60 days of the
date your statement was mailed to you.
- Keep a
record - in a safe place separate from your cards - of your
account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers
of each card issuer so you can report a loss quickly.
- Carry only
those cards that you anticipate you'll need.
ATM or debit cards:
a Registration Service
- Don't carry
your PIN in your wallet or purse or write it on your ATM or
- Never write
your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other
papers that could be easily lost or seen
check ATM or debit card transactions before you enter the PIN
or before you sign the receipt; the funds for this item will
be fairly quickly transferred out of your checking or other
check your account activity. This is particularly important
if you bank online. Compare the current balance and recent withdrawals
or transfers to those you've recorded, including your current
ATM and debit card withdrawals and purchases and your recent
checks. If you notice transactions you didn't make, or if your
balance has dropped suddenly without activity by you, immediately
report the problem to your card issuer. Someone may have co-opted
your account information to commit fraud.
annual fee, companies will notify the issuers of your credit card
and your ATM or debit card accounts if your card is lost or stolen.
This service allows you to make only one phone call to report all
card losses rather than calling individual issuers. Most services
also will request replacement cards on your behalf.
a card registration service may be convenient, but it's not required.
The FCBA and the EFTA give you the right to contact your card
issuers directly in the event of a loss or suspected unauthorized
If you decide
to buy a registration service, compare offers. Carefully read
the contract to determine the company's obligations and your liability.
For example, will the company reimburse you if it fails to notify
card issuers promptly once you've called in the loss to the service?
If not, you could be liable for unauthorized charges or transfers.
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.
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
Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Stop 801
20th and C Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20551
Deposit Insurance Corporation
Regulates state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal
Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs
550 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20429
877-ASK-FDIC (275-3342) toll-free
Credit Union Administration
Regulates federally chartered credit unions:
Office of Public and Congressional Affairs
1775 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3428
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
of Thrift Supervision
Regulates federal savings and loan associations and federal savings
1700 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20552
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