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Released: May 27, 2011
Help Desk FAQ
What is my financial liability if someone uses my debit card without my permission?
Your liability for unauthorized use of your ATM (automated teller machine) or debit card (ATM access plus the Visa or MasterCard logo, which allows you to make purchases anywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted) depends on how quickly you report the loss or theft of your card. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), if you report your card missing before it’s used, the card issuer can’t hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions. If the card is used before you report it missing, the amount of the unauthorized transactions you are held liable for depends on timing.
If you report the loss or theft within two business days of when you notice the card missing, your liability is limited to $50. If you don't report the loss within two business days, your potential liability increases to $500. You also risk unlimited liability if you fail to report an unauthorized card transaction that appears on your account statement within 60 days of that statement being mailed to you. That means you could, potentially, lose all the money in your account plus the unused portion of any overdraft protection line of credit you might have linked to the account.
In cases where an unauthorized transaction involves only your card number rather than the actual card, your liability is limited to any transactions that occur after 60 days following the mailing of your account statement containing the unauthorized use and before you report the loss.
To reduce your liability for unauthorized debit and ATM card transactions:
- Review your checking account statement each month (or more frequently online).
- Keep your PIN (personal identification number) secret.
- Use a credit card when shopping online or if you have concerns about security. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) limits your liability for unauthorized use of your credit card to $50. Also, you don’t have the right to stop payment on a debit card transaction the way you do on a credit card transaction, and getting a refund can be difficult or impossible.
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