The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Money Matters: my debit card got stolen

Money+Matters%3A+my+debit+card+got+stolen

Todd Erkis is a visiting professor of finance at St. Joe’s who writes weekly columns answering students’ financial questions.

Professor Erkis, help! I tried to use my debit card and it was denied for lack of funds. When I checked my bank balance, someone made unauthorized charges using my debit card and drained the entire account. I don’t know what happened because I still have my card. I called the bank and they are sending me a card with a new number but I need that money back. What should I do? -Anonymous ’21.

I am so sorry to hear that your money was stolen. Unfortunately, this type of thing is far too common. You did the right thing by contacting your bank immediately. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act you are protected if credit cards, ATM or debit cards are lost or stolen. 

Since your number was stolen but not the card, you are not responsible for the charges you did not make. If your debit card was lost or stolen instead, make sure you report it to the bank immediately as the amount you would be responsible for is $50 if you report it as lost or stolen within two days of learning about the loss or theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission website (consumer.ftc.gov). Your responsibility rises to $500 if you wait more than two business days but less than 60 calendar days to report the loss or theft, so report it immediately! Credit cards have similar rules, but the maximum responsibility is at most $50.

Since you have your card, the most common way someone stole your card number was through the use of a “skimmer.” These illegal machines can be attached just outside the slot where you insert your debit card and record your card number and PIN. Often, these will be installed in public places like overnight gas stations since no one is there to stop them from doing it. There are other ways that your card number could have been compromised if someone stole information from a business or if you read your number over the phone and someone overheard.

It was good that you notified the bank immediately and I hope you get all of your money back. There are two other steps I recommend you do as well to fully protect yourself. First of all, change your PIN. If a criminal used your debit card, they likely have both your card number and PIN. Second, consider adding email and/or text notifications from your bank every time your card is used. These notifications can be annoying but will let you know immediately when your card is used without authorization. Do this for any credit cards you have as well. That way you will know immediately if someone is using your card and can shut it down as quickly as possible.

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