We have all heard about identity theft and fraud on the local news. I, like many Americans, try very hard to keep my personal information, well, personal. I don’t share my debit card numbers. I’m careful with tossing my bills into the trash, but despite my best efforts, someone used my debit card for unauthorized purchases. Although it took some effort, I was able to get my money back.
Checking your bank statements is crucial. With my bank, I had a period of sixty days to realize that my debit card had been fraudulently use for unauthorized purchases. I know that reading your monthly statements and going online to check your transactions can be boring and tedious, but believe me, the time is worth the trouble.
Within a period of less than one week, someone had used my debit card for approximately $300 worth of purchases using my family’s funds. Accidentally, I missed a 3-day period on my bank transactions and missed another withdrawal from my checking account. I finally found it just one day shy of the 60 days and was able to report the unauthorized charge just in time.
Once you have made the distinction between your actual debits and the unauthorized charges, you have some work ahead of you. Of course, check with your bank’s policies because they may differ slightly.
First, I made attempts to notify each company where a fraudulent purchase or debit had been made. Some merchants were able to be reached by the toll-free number provided on my statement. This made things very simple and easy for me. Other merchants, however, were more of a challenge. Little information was included on my bank statement. I played detective via the internet and was able to locate contact information for the companies I needed to reach. Using the contact information I found, I went down the list of merchants, one by one, and notified them that I did not authorize the debit made to my checking account.
Whether you communicate via phone, mail, or the internet, be certain to make notes about the correspondence. You will need the information later.
Although your bank’s procedure may differ, my bank required me to write a letter regarding the fraudulent charges made to my checking account using my debit card. My letter did not need to be wordy or complicated, but certain things were required. Here are some handy points to include in your letter to the bank:
*your legal name on the account
*last four or five digits from the debit card
*names of merchants
*methods used to contact merchants
*dates you attempted correspondence with merchants
*dates of unauthorized charges
*amount of unauthorized charges to account
It may also be helpful to include copies of emails or notes you took during your correspondence with the merchants. All included information shows your honest attempt to get your money refunded back into your account. Often, your efforts will be rewarded by the merchant returning the funds. If this is not the case, your bank may reinstate the missing funds to your account after a period of time.
After unauthorized use of your debit card, it is wise to cancel your debit card through your bank. This may require a trip to the bank and your John Hancock on a few papers, but the staff at your bank will talk you right through it. You may be able to cancel your debit card online or by phone, depending on your bank’s policies. You will, however, want to keep track of your old debit card number for future use. This is where I made the mistake. I didn’t keep my old debit card number handy and had to do a little research later when a merchant contacting me about returning the funds to my checking account.
Talk to your bank about their recommendations, but there is typically no need to cancel out your entire account, but simply to cancel your current debit card and reissue you a new one with a different card number and security code.
If you want or need a new debit card, be certain to apply for it immediately after canceling the old debit card. It takes several days to get your new card in hand and this can be an inconvenience. Starting the application process for the new card immediately minimizes the trouble.
Continue watching your statements for the funds to be returned to your account. Should the bank return your funds and then a merchant returns the same transaction, you need to notify your bank
Right away. This will remedy any concerns about getting your money back twice and keep you in good standing with your financial institution. Also, you can keep track of any fees charged or refunded due to overdraft or insufficient funds issues caused by the unauthorized charges to your account.
Don’t assume you are out of luck and money after your debit card has been used without your permission. I got my money refunded after a little time and work and you can, too. Keeping track of your statements, contacting the bank and merchants right away, and doing the proper paperwork can bring back your cash fairly quickly.