What Can I Do When My Debit Card Is Charged & I Don't Know Who Did it?

by Jay Motes ; Updated July 27, 2017
Consumer should act quickly when spotting a questionable charge.

An unauthorized charge showing up from a debit card can be a stressful situation for a consumer. Unlike a credit card charge, a debit card charge draws directly from a consumer’s bank account and may cause the consumer to overdraw the account or simply not have the money needed to pay bills or other living expenses. Consumers who find a charge on their account that they did not authorize need to take prompt action.

Report the Charge

When noticing an unauthorized charge made with a debit card, a consumer should immediately contact the bank or credit union to report the problem. The back of the debit card will have a number to report problems or the consumer can call their bank branch directly. Consumers should follow up the call with a visit to the bank to discuss the matter and a letter documenting what has occurred. Banks must investigate the charge and either rule that the charge is legitimate or provide at least a provisional credit within 10 days of the report. Banks can take longer than 10 days to decide on the validity of the claim, but must not hold the customer’s money past 10 days.

Request New Card

When making the report of the unauthorized charge, consumers should request a replacement debit card. While it is best to make the request immediately, customers requesting a new card may have to wait a few days before receiving the new card and may need to make other arrangements for paying expenses during this time. Consumers should remember to report the change in card number to merchants authorized to make automatic withdraws.

Understand Your Rights

Federal law provides protections to consumers for unauthorized charges made with a debit card. Once the consumer has made the report to the bank about the unauthorized charge, consumers have no liability for future unauthorized charges made to the account. Consumers have 60 days to report an unauthorized charge to the bank after receiving the statement indicating the charge. In the case of a lost or stolen card, consumers that report the loss of the card within two days are only responsible for $50 of unauthorized charges, after two days the responsibility grows to $500.

Examine Records

Consumers should review their bank records to look for past unauthorized charges that may have gone unnoticed. Finding other unauthorized charges may help the consumer to identify the source of the charges as well as recover any money lost from the account. The unauthorized use of the debit card may be a sign of a larger identify theft problem. Consumers should request a copy of their credit report and carefully go over the information to make certain there is no suspicious activity.

About the Author

Jay Motes is a writer who sold his first article in 1998. Motes has written for numerous print and online publications including "The Dollar Stretcher" and "WV Sportsman." He holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science form Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.V.

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