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Fraudulent ATM Withdrawals: What To Do

Theft is no stranger to electronic withdrawals. In fact, more and more frequently, thieves are targeting ATM and debit cards due to their widespread availability.

Fraudulent ATM or debit card transfers can occur when the card has been stolen or when a thief has acquired the account number and PIN. Either way, the consumer has sixty days from the time the bank mails a statement that lists the unauthorized use to report the unauthorized withdrawal.



Fortunately, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act limits liability for unauthorized electronic withdrawals. However, the speed with which a consumer responds to fraudulent withdrawals also plays a part in determining the total liability limits.

What Is The Liability Of The Consumer

  • If the incident is reported within two days, the liability is limited to fifty dollars.
  • If the incident is reported after two days but prior to sixty days, then the liability is limited to five hundred dollars.
  • If the incident is reported after sixty days, the consumer may be liable for the entire amount.
  • If the incident of theft is reported prior to the card actually being used fraudulently, the consumer's liability is zero. The company that issued the card may not hold the consumer responsible for any transactions that occurred.
These liability limits are guidelines for the most part. Depending on the company involved, the total liability may not be demanded from the consumer. In fact, both Visa and MasterCard have stipulated that in most instances, they will only require the consumer to be liable for fifty dollars from any unauthorized use of their ATM or debit card- no matter how much time has elapsed.

What Should The Consumer Do If They Suspect Unauthorized Use

  • Telephone the company immediately and notify them of the unauthorized transaction. Most companies have toll-free phone numbers.
  • Follow up with a certified letter with a return receipt. Make a copy of your letter for your records.
  • Be sure to include all pertinent information: your name and address, account information, and dates and amounts of unauthorized transactions.
  • Be sure to send the information to the fraud department and not to the billing department.
  • Check your homeowner's policy to see if you are covered for ATM or debit card theft and fraudulent use.

What To Expect

Once the company receives your letter informing them of the unauthorized use of your account, the company has ten business days to conduct an investigation to verify the information. Upon completion of the investigation, the company will notify the consumer who has filed the complaint within three business days. Once the company determines that an error has occurred, it must correct the situation within one business day.

Furthermore, if the company determines that it requires additional time to complete its investigation, it may take an additional forty-five days to do so. However, during this time any money in dispute must be returned to the consumer's account until a decision has been made. Additionally, the consumer must be notified not only of the continuing investigation, but also, the status of any money in question. Moreover, should the company determine that no error or theft has occurred, the company is entitled to take retrieve the money once it has notified the consumer in writing.

Tips To Protect Your ATM And Debit Card

  • Carry the toll-free phone numbers of all of the companies that you have accounts with. In the event that your cards are stolen, you can call immediately.
  • Do not lend your cards to anyone. This avoids friendly theft as well as friendly misplacement of the card.
  • Review your account periodically for errors.
  • Keep all of your account information secret. Do not write the account number down on the outside of an envelope.
  • Do not carry your PIN number in your wallet.
  • Do not write your PIN on your card.
All personal financial account information should be kept secure at all times. With ownership comes responsibility and the consumer has the responsibility to safeguard access to their financial accounts. Should the undesirable happen and unlawful use of the account occurs, quick action is the best course of action.

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Contact Us | Disclaimer | September 1, 2014